Gloom despite potato boom
Not a crop failure, but a bumper yield is worrying potato growers in the country's northern districts.
With their newly harvested potatoes, farmers fear counting losses due to low prices in the local markets. And they are worried that the prices may fall further.
A 100-kg sack of potatoes now sells for around Tk 600 in different markets in the region. The same quantity of potatoes sold for Tk 800 to Tk 850 at this time last year.
This correspondent learnt about the price situation during recent visits to markets at Taraganj in Rangpur, Hatibandha in Lalmonirhat, Kaliganj in Panchagarh and Kishoreganj in Nilphamari districts.
The potato farmers there demanded that the government take steps to ensure fair prices for their produce and save them from slipping into financial ruin.
Talking to this correspondent, they said they would have to incur a loss of around Tk 3,850 a bigha this year since the cost of production was Tk 18, 850.
The average yield of potatoes per bigha is 2,500 kg this year, with the price hovering around Tk 15,000 in the markets of the region.
The cost of production per bigha was about Tk 16,000 last year.
Farmers and traders last year had kept huge quantities of potatoes in cold storages following a bumper production. But most of the produce remained unsold throughout the year.
Yunus Ali, a farmer of Dolua Dogachhi village in Nilphamari Sadar upazila, said he had kept 50 sacks of potatoes in a local cold storage. But he has yet to take those back because of low prices.
Last year, the charge for keeping a bag of potatoes in the cold storage was Tk 300.
Mohammad Selim, a cold store owner in Rangpur, said he had to sell more than 20,000 bags of potatoes at Tk 80 a bag, as the farmers failed to pay the storage charge and did not take their produce back. Despite selling the potatoes, he counted a huge loss, he said.
Another cold storage owner, Sayed Ali, said almost all the 60 cold stores in the region incurred huge losses due to the fall in potato prices.
According to sources at the Department of Agriculture Extension's regional office in Rangpur, the department had set a target of producing 34,08,180 tonnes of potatoes from 1,70,409 hectares of land in Rangpur, Dinajpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Panchagarh, Thakurgaon and Nilphamari districts this year. The farmers, however, cultivated 1,49,070 hectares.