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 Buscador de Noticias
Asia 05/04/2024

India: Price fidgets over Indian potato import procrastination

Traders have shown an enigmatic reluctance for importing potatoes despite prognosis about possible decline in domestic output this season, which economists say could prompt profiteers bet on this item.

One ploy is obvious from the designated importers’ side: low profit margins and the beginning of arrivals of new harvest on the domestic market.

The government has given import permits (IPs) to traders to bring 0.159 million tonnes of carbohydrate-rich vegetable since the last week of October 2023 following a tectonic rise in prices of the kitchen item in Bangladesh. Potato price then shot up to Tk 60-70 a kg in a new record.

It was first time that the ministry of agriculture (MoA) gave approval for potato import.

However, against all IPs, importers brought a paltry amount of 3,150 tonnes of potato until March 24, data from the Plant Quarantine Wing (PQW) under the MoA revealed.

PQW is the authority to certify import and export in case of all kinds of agricultural produce.

A Parbatipur -based importer in Dinajpur has said potato price in West Dinajpur of West Bengal and its adjacent districts is now almost same as in Bangladesh. Excluding transportation costs and crop losses, it is hard to make even 5.0 per cent of profits.

He says though local market is also vibrant as wholesale price in Dinajpur, Rangpur and Nilphamari is Tk 27-30 a kg now, nearly 20-percent higher than last year, import cost will still be a little higher than that.

"Sourcing dollar at government rate is also crucial for import, which is now hardly possible," says the trader.

According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), potato production was 10.4 million tonnes last year. This year the government has set target to harvest 11.6 million. Farmers so far harvested 9.0 million tonnes or 84 per cent of the targeted crop, the DAE claimed on March 24.

Md Kazi Mahbub Morshed, organising secretary of Bangladesh Potato Exporters Association, says let blight has devastated potato fields in Rangpur and Rajshahi regions this year in the cold spells in January and February.

He suggests the DAE should deliver the correct information on the crop blighting and its impact on the potato production this year.

"I last saw such losses in potato fields in 2007 when farmers sold potato at Tk 18-20 a kg during harvesting season, amid much lower output, which was usually then (2006-7) Tk 3.0-4.0 a kg at farmers’ end," he says.

An official at the MoA says the government will continue to permit import as it has also concerns over the crop losses this year.

"If local production will not be enough to meet the demand, importers could bring potato anytime if they find profits from that so that intentional hoarders could hardly get any chance to cash in on lesser production," he adds.

He says northern districts might have been attacked by blights to some extent, but another hub, Munshiganj, is giving sound production this year.

Value-chain-expert Prof Golam Hafiz Kennedy says apart from the fungal disease, farmers’ tendency to pluck immature potato in January-February period to avert losses followed by any possible fall in prices is also going to make consumers suffer this year.

Farmers harvested potato weighing 30-40 grammes (gm) against their normal weight of above 100 gm.

"Proper data on production should be provided jointly by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and the DAE with end of harvest this month," he suggests for the sake of market management.

Meanwhile, potato prices in the city markets showed a Tk 10-15-a-kg hike in last ten days as cardinal, diamant varieties retailed at Tk 45-50 and BARI alu 29 variety (known as ’carriage’) at Tk 60-65 a kg on Monday.


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