Potato farmers going bust
With a heavy heart, Abdul Hakim set off early Friday morning to dig out potatoes from the acre of land he leased.
The 40-year-old, who made a profit of Tk 1.5 lakh last year from the potatoes he grew on the same land, has been putting off harvesting for the past one month, hoping the legume's prices would rebound, narrowing down his losses.
But the rally never happened, with the prices continuing to slide amid release of old potatoes from cold storage and supply glut of fresh produce as farmers moved on to other profitable crops such as boro rice and maize.
Potato was selling for Tk 1.5-4 a kilogram yesterday up north, its main growing region, down from Tk 7-9 a month ago, according to Hakim.
Over at the capital, it was selling at Tk 8-12 a kilogram in contrast to Tk 18-20 a month ago, according to Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
With the pressure from landowners and pesticide sellers intensifying by the day, he finally decided to cash in on the fruit of his labour—at half of his costs of Tk 5.5 lakh.
“I have dues of Tk 1.6 lakh and my creditors are right on my back. I am unable to feed my family properly. I have no other option.”
Hakim's is not an isolated story. Like him, thousands of potato growers are selling their produce much below their investments after the prolonged political turmoil in the run-up to national elections on January 5, leaving the market depressed.
Take, for instance, Mohammad Mantu from Hakim's neighbouring village in Dinajpur. He went to Dhaka on January 28 with 184 maunds of potato and returned with only Tk 5,616.
Hakim, too, plans on taking his produce, which he expects to be around 150 maunds, to the capital the following day by hiring a truck with his neighbour.
Asked if all arrangements have been done, he said: “I cannot even think properly.”
About 4.8 lakh hectares have been dedicated to potato farming this season, with the aim to ensure production of 86.5 lakh tonnes, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
Last year, potatoes were grown on 4.44 lakh hectares, with production reaching 86.03 lakh tonnes, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.