No govt support to potato growers
Prices hit rock bottom09 February 2014 Kazi Zahidul Hasan
The government has no plan to give price support to the potato growers despite sharp price fall of the vegetable at the field level, Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury told the New Nation yesterday.
She added: "It's a matter of private sector. So, chance of the government intervention in this regard is limited.
The New Nation approached her for comment on Saturday in the wake of farmers' protest following severe fall in potato prices.
Farmers of the northern districts, a key potato growing zone of the country, last week blocked the Dhaka-Panchagarh highway in Birganj by putting potatoes on the road to protest the price fall. The farmers said they are incurring heavy losses due to a sharp decline in potato price.
According to them, they sell now each kilogram (kg) of potato at Tk 1.50 to Tk 2 at the field level whereas they had to spend Tk 5 to Tk 6 for producing per kg of it.
Begum Matia Chowdhury, however, asked the farmers not to be worried over price fall as her government is taking the matter seriously. "Don't feel unhappy for the price fall and overproduction of potato in this season. We will find alternatives to push up prices of their produce," she added. "What the government can do in this regard is promoting its export," she said, adding, "Boosting potato export can be a tool to ensure fair prices," she opined.
"We are working on the issue and steps are underway to diversify the export market," she said. The Minister also informed that exporters will soon export 700 containers of potato to Russia and a good quantity of potato to be exported to Sri Lanka. "Potato prices went down significantly at the growers level due to recent supply line disruption. Besides, a large quantity of potato from last year's production is still in cold storages contributing to the price fall," she claimed She further added, consumption of the vegetable in Dhaka and across the country witnessed drastic fall due to cut in supply line during the last six months in the wake of political turmoil, ultimately affecting prices of potato at the wholesale level.
Echoing with the Minister's view, Bangladesh Cold Storage Association (BCSA) President Md Jasim Uddin said: "Potato farmers are incurring losses with their new produce as a large quantity of potatoes from last year is still in cold storages."