Bangladesh: After chilli and onion, now potato price soars
The country’s essential commodity market has become highly volatile, as prices of one item after another are soaring, leaving millions of commoners in dire straits.
After the volatility in the chilli and onion markets, now potato market is in crisis. Market sources said the supply of potatoes is decreasing and the price is increasing.
The price of potato increased by Tk 10 per kg within two weeks, it has reached Tk 50 per kg in the retail market.
Just a year ago, potatoes were sold at Tk 28 per kg; That is, the price of potatoes has increased by 78 per cent in a year.
Traders say despite the increase in potato production as per the government, the actual production has decreased by 15-20 per cent. In addition, the storage of potatoes in cold storages has also decreased this year.
Ahead of the harvest season, the demand for seed potatoes has also increased, leading to a rise in prices.
However, the Department of Agriculture Marketing (DAM) recently blamed a portion of unscrupulous traders for the rise in potato prices in a report.
DAM claimed that the traders are artificially increasing the price of potatoes. They are not releasing potatoes from the cold storage as per demand.
Apart from this, they mentioned that the problem of transportation, the inability of vehicles carrying potatoes to pass on priority basis at ferries and toll plazas are also the reasons for the increase in prices.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), in the last fiscal year (2022-23), 1.12 crore tonnes of potatoes were produced in the country which was 1.15 crore tonnes in the previous 2021-22 fiscal year.
Accordingly, the production increased by 1.33 lakh tons in a year. According to the government, the demand for potatoes in the country is slightly more than 95 lakhs. So there is a surplus of about 16 lakh tonne of potatoes against the demand in the country.
However, cold storage owners claimed that the official data on potato production is not correct.
Speaking to The Business Post, the former president of Bangladesh Cold Storage Association Mosharaf Hossain said, "After enduring years of losses from selling potatoes domestically, farmers and traders decided to cut back on potato production last season, disheartened by the persistently poor returns.
According to our data, potato production in the country last season was 15-20 per cent short fall than the previous year. It also reduces storage in the cold storage.”
Major potato hubs--Munshiganj and North Bengal-- saw a 20 per cent reduction in storage. There are two factors for increasing the price--the production is less and the increase in demand for seeds ahead of harvest season.
According to the Department of Agriculture Marketing in 2022, a total of 27 lakh 8 thousand tons of potatoes were stored in 365 cold storages in the country with a capacity of 30 lakh tons.
However, in the current year 2023, it decreased to 24 lakh 92 thousand tonnes.
There is a demand of 8 lakh tonnes of seed potatoes in the country, according to Cold Storage Association.
Meanwhile, after a few weeks of instability, the prices of green chillies, tomatoes, carrots and onions have decreased, but the prices of some vegetables have increased.
Green chilli is being sold at Tk 120-180 per kg on Thursday at retail level down from Tk 160-200 per kg a week ago.
Local onion is being sold at Tk 80-90 per kg, it was at Tk 90-95 per kg a week ago. Tomato sold at Tk 120-140 per kg down from 140-160 per kg a week ago.