Potato: If production high, why price going up so much

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

At the time when market regulation has been announced as one of the topmost priorities in Awami League’s electoral manifesto, the prices of almost every commodity has been rising by leaps and bounds. Of them, the price of potatoes has broken the record also.

As reported in Prothom Alo, new and old potatoes were sold for Tk 70 to 80 a kilogram in different markets of the capital on Thursday. The price of potato has increased by at least Tk 10 per kg within the last one week.

The price of potato was Tk 16 to 22 a kg during this time last year. What reasons can there be behind the potato price soaring from Tk 22 to 80 within just a year?  

According to TCB rates, per kilogram of coarse rice is now being sold for Tk 48 to 50 in the markets of Dhaka. Medium variety of rice is being sold for Tk 50-55 while fine rice is between Tk 60 and Tk 75 a kg. Therefore, potatoes are now being sold more than all varieties of rice.

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That means a kg of potato is costlier than a kg of rice. Once, people of the country had to switch to potatoes as an alternative to rice. The scope was there because the potato price was low. But that scope isn’t there anymore.

While speaking to Prothom Alo, Bangladesh Cold Storage Association president Mostafa Azad Chowdhury said that the price of potato starts reducing from mid-December. However, the price isn’t coming down due to the decline in early yield of potatoes this year.

Can the reason behind the decline in production be the farmers being denied fair price last year? In that case the question arises if the government has taken any steps to help them get the fair price?

The potato price soaring uncontrollably high didn’t benefit the farmers that much. For, they had already sold the potatoes to the cold storage owners by March and April.

From these, it is only proved that the syndicate is not active just in the case of a few imported food items rather it’s equally dictating the market of locally produced commodities.

First of all, the government doesn’t come to its senses until the prices of potato or other commodities go beyond consumers’ affordability. Even if they take a few showy steps later when the situation gets out of control, they don’t come to any use.

If the production is indeed higher than the demand, why did the potato price soar at an unnatural rate? Who will answer this question?

Despite setting up a ceiling for the potato price, the government failed to bring the market under control this time. Even the amount of potato, announced to be imported, couldn't be imported either.

As per agriculture ministry records, total 10.4 million (1.04 crore) tonnes of potato was produced last season while, according to the department of agricultural extension, it was 11.1 million (1.11 crore) tonnes. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) records say that the production of potato was 10.9 million (1.09 crore) tonnes last time.

In terms of the agriculture ministry records, there is an annual demand of 8 to 8.5 million (80 to 85 lakh) tonnes of potato in the country. If the production is indeed higher than the demand, why did the potato price soar at an unnatural rate? Who will answer this question?

If the marketing system of the locally-produced agricultural commodities had been more modern and farmer-friendly, the intermediaries, hoarders and cold storage owners couldn’t have extracted millions from the consumers’ pockets.

We hope, though it’s late, respective authorities of the government will take farmers and consumers’ concern into consideration and take necessary measures.