Inadequate storage facility has put potato farmers in great difficulty in the growing hubs by forcing them to sell their produce at low prices. The hailstorms hit potato fields in many districts last month, further increasing their woes, farmers said.
The farmers in the key potato growing hubs, including Munshiganj, Rangpur, Nilphamari and Bogra, are now passing a hectic time, as it is the peak hour for storing and marketing the crop.
Potato production per hectare has increased in the country’s Northern districts this year, but it is likely to decline in mid-country hubs following the hailstorms.
Haji Zainal Sheikh, a potato farmer in Louhajang, Munshiganj, was seen too busy instructing labourers in his fields on Monday.
He has already collected potato from 3 kanis of land (1 kani = 140 decimals), and another 3 kanis are yet to be harvested.
He was expecting that this year’s production might surpass that of last year.
“But it is likely to decline now, as the hailstorms in the last part of February damaged the crops,” he said.
He collected 500 maunds of diamond variety of potato from each kani, which was more than 525 maunds last year.
However, the grower is facing problems, as his nearby cold storage has no space for preserving his potato.
When contacted, Md Ariful Islam, an official of the cold storage, said their capacity is only 4,000 tonnes, whereas Louhajang farmers produce more than 0.1 million tonnes.
“Booking of our storage has been completed in January,” he also said.
Md Sayedul Islam, a farmer in Sirajdikhan, Munshiganj, said most of his potatoes of 2 kanis of land have been packed with jute sacks, but he has not yet managed any cold storage.
He sold 200 maunds of cardinal variety of potato at Tk 420 per maund against the production cost of nearly Tk 300 each maund.
“The price might surge further in the coming days. If I can manage to store 500 maunds for the next two months, profits would be 30 per cent more.”
He admitted that potato prices in the current harvesting season are giving them some profits, but they incurred huge loss during the last two years.
Most of the farmers whom the FE interviewed in the district expressed their dissatisfaction over inadequate storage facility. They claimed that political high-ups have major holdings of the cold storages.
When asked, deputy director of DAE, Munshiganj Md Humayun Kabir said the district has a target to get 0.9 million tonnes of potato from 37,500 hectares of land. But farmers cultivated potato at 38,550 hectares.
He said potato production in the district was 1.3 million tonnes last year, marking the highest productivity per hectare in any district.
“But 69 cold storages in the district has only 0.524 million tonnes of capacity.”
Deputy director of DAE, Rangpur S M Ashraf Ali said storage capacity in the district is 42 per cent of the total production.
He said Rangpur is expecting 1.035 million tonnes of potato output from 50,750 hectares, whereas the total storage capacity in 40 cold storages in the district is 0.435 million tonnes.
When asked, Bangladesh Cold Storage Association chairman Jasim Uddin said the total cold storage facility is now nearly 4.5 million tonnes, which is just 50 per cent of the total production.
“Capacity should be at least 70 per cent of the production.”
According to DAE, potato production reached all time high of 9.2 million tonnes in last financial year.
This year, the department targeted to get 9.0 million tonnes of potato from 0.457 million hectares of land.