Bangladesh: Potato prices defy new harvest, remain elevated
The harvest of early-winter potato varieties has begun, but the arrival of new potatoes is yet to provide any price relief to the local market. Stored potatoes continue to sell at Tk 45-55 per kilogram across the country.
Newly harvested potatoes are retailing at Tk 120-160 per kilogram in Dhaka and Tk 70-80 per kilogram in the Rangpur region, according to the Department of Agriculture Marketing (DAM) and the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
The country’s potato harvest typically first begins in Nilphamari district, followed by Dinajpur and Rangpur.
Nilphamari farmers have cultivated early potatoes on 6,000 hectares this year, down from 8,500 hectares last year, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Nilphamari.
Sikander Ali, a farmer from Kalikapur under Kishorganj upazila in Nilphamari, mentioned severe damage to his two bighas of potato crops due to heavy rainfall in October.
"I could only harvest about a quarter of my produce as most of the plants died in the rain," he said.
Despite the crop losses, potato prices are at a three-year high now. Farmers are receiving Tk 55-60 per kilogram for early-grown ’carrage’ and ’seven’ varieties, said the farmer.
DAM Rangpur Division Deputy Director Md Shamsur Rahman told the FE that the retail price of new potatoes in Rangpur and other major northern cities was Tk 70-80 per kilogram.
In Rangpur city, stored potatoes are still fetching Tk 45 per kilogram, an 85 per cent increase from a year ago, he said.
The agri official anticipated a price drop from mid-December as the harvest season peaks across all northern districts.
DAE Nilphamari Deputy Director Dr SM Abu Bakar Saiful Islam said adverse weather conditions in October prompted farmers to delay cultivation. However, cultivation picked up significantly after the weeklong rain in October, with nearly 16,000 hectares now under potato cultivation.
He said the current high prices have encouraged hundreds of farmers to plant potatoes this year.
Meanwhile, the private sector has imported over 15,000 tonnes of potatoes from neighbouring India in the past month, according to the plant quarantine wing of DAE.
Despite the imports and the beginning of the potato harvest, prices show no sign of cooling off anytime soon, says Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Vice President SM Nazer Hossain.
He urged DAM to fix a minimum price for farmers and a maximum retail price for consumers to ease the price burden.
He advised the government to closely monitor the market and cold storage operations during the peak season (February-March) to ensure potato prices remain affordable for people.
DAE field service wing Director Tajul Islam Patwary told the FE that the early arrival of winter this year is favourable for potato cultivation. If the current weather conditions persist, the harvest may reach to 11.6 million tonnes from 0.462 million hectares.