Govt must buy potato to save marginal farmers20 February 2014
production this year has created a new market crisis forcing farmers to
sell the produce at throw away prices to incur heavy losses. Farmers
demonstrated on Monday in front of the Jatiya Press Club and dumped
potato on the streets to highlight their plight. They also put blockades
on Dhaka-Rangpur highway at North Bengal to the draw attention of the
government to their hapless condition. They sought some sort of
government intervention to bail them out of the crisis but Agriculture
Minister Motiya Chowdhury ruled out any government help or buying the
produce at some support price to further highlight the overall crisis of
the marketing of the winter crops.
Experts said the government can't ignore all together its responsibility pointing to the ongoing free market economy when the farmers stand to lose everything. They wonder why there should not be any demand forecast or stock analysis and production guidelines before the new production season begins to help farmers about their own production planning. The Department of Agricultural Marketing can play an active role in this regard in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Commerce and Bangladesh Cold Storage Association.
Market analysts held two reasons responsible for this year's crisis. In one hand production has surpassed by around five lakh tonnes the overall demand for 70-75 lakh tonnes in local market, including 10 lakh tonnes for seed. Moreover, a sizable part of the stocks held by business men in cold storage last year could not be disposed of up to this time forcing most stockers to remain partly absent from bulk buying at the field level. Consequently, news reports said farmers are selling the produce between Tk 1.0 and Tk 3 per kg at most places against a production cost of Tk 6 on an average. It highlights their plight in one hand and the absence of a policy support of the government for farmers on the other.
We can't agree with Agriculture Minister Motiya Chowdhury's suggestion that the government is trying to export potato to Russia. It sounds like a fairy-tale to farmers who don't know how to reach the Russian market. It could have been advisable for the government to buy potato at the field level at some support price and sell it to Russia through Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) to recover the money. By hinting at the Russian market the Agriculture Minister has in fact left the farmers abandoned with their back on the wall at a time when misuse and misappropriation of budgetary funds is enormous at the political end.
We hold the view that the government must buy potatoes at a certain subsidized price as part of the nation's food security build up, in addition to bringing relief to marginal farmers who produce for the nation to feed the millions at low cost. Any neglect to their cause may lead to a stiff production cutback next year to destabilize the market in a reverse way. We demand that the government must not ignore the farmers' genuine cause and thereby leave it unattended. The consequences for the nation would be tremendous.