Scarcity of quality seeds upsets potato farmers
Potato farmers in eight northern districts constituting the country's largest potato growing region are upset due to scarcity of quality seeds and its high price at the onset of potato sowing season.
As supply of quality seeds from BADC (Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation) is too scanty, farmers are buying uncertified low quality seeds from markets for high prices.
The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Rangpur set a target to cultivate potato on 1.72 lakh hectares of land in Rangpur, Dinajpur, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Lalmonirhat, Thakurgaon and Panchagarh districts to get 33.69 lakh tonnes of yield and the demand of potato seeds in the eight northern districts is 2.58 lakh tonnes.
As November is the peak time for potato cultivation, farmers are now preparing their lands for the purpose.
Farmers said they prefer BADC seeds as those are cultivated and preserved in scientific ways, are free from virus and fungus, and give high yield.
Sources of BADC seed department in the region said it supplies only 4.40 thousand tonnes of potato seeds to farmers through 550 dealers in eight districts, which comprise only about 2% of the requirement.
Admitting the situation, Nurul Islam, deputy director of BADC regional seed marketing department, suggested that farmers procure the required seeds from big farmers, NGOs, seed traders etc.
He, however, could not specify what percentage of the requirement would be available from these sources.
The government rates for seeds of different grades and varieties range from Tk 24-35 a kg but BADC seeds are rarely seen in the markets as recruited dealers sell them in advance to big farmers or seed companies for Tk 30-48 per kg, farmers alleged.
During visit to different markets like Tengonmari Haat of Nilphamari, Mohishkhocha Haat of Lalmonirhat and Sakoa Haat of Panchagarh, this correspondent saw large-scale selling of low quality seeds, mostly virus and fungus affected ones.
An 80-kg bag of low quality uncertified cardinal variety potato is selling for Tk 1600-Tk 1650 per maund (40 kg) which was Tk 800-Tk 1000 last year. Same is the case with other potato varieties like granola, diamond, courage, asterisk, lady roseta, beeline etc.
Monju Alam Sarker, government seed certification officer for Nilphamari and Lalmonirhat, said 90% of seeds in markets are of low quality while no individual, trader or seed company came to them for testing seeds and getting quality certification this year.
Sreedam Das, president of Nilphamari district unit of Krishok Samity, said a section of seed traders are selling low quality seeds for high prices, taking advantage of poor monitoring by the government's department concerned.
Shakhawat Hossain, additional director of the regional office of DAE in Rangpur, said action will be taken against dishonest traders if farmers lodge complaints, he said.