Munshiganj potato farmers in troubled waters

Potato farmers in Munshiganj are in troubled waters after potato prices fell through due to surplus stocks and low sales.

According to sources, potatoes have been grown on 38,000 hectares of land in Munshiganj this year and while yield has been good, profits for farmers have not been as satisfactory.

Potato farmer Sanal Sheikh had hoped to use the profit garnered from the sale of potatoes to pay for his daughter’s wedding.

“This is our only source of income,” he said, adding that he had used up all his investment in farming potatoes as farmers got good profits last year.

He said that not only did he not make profits, he has not been able to recover the cost of one sack of potatoes yet.

“Last year, I sold one sack for Tk1000-1200 each as opposed to Tk400-500 now,” he said.

Bangladesh Cold Storage Association sources say that there are currently 500,000 tons of potatoes and spuds in the 70 cold storage facilities in Munshiganj.

As of Tuesday, potatoes sold for Tk10-11 per kg, with farmers counting a loss of Tk7-8 per kg. If prices do not go up soon, they will likely face losses of nearly 320 crore.

Sreenagar Cold Storage Limited Manager Shishir Ahmed said that per 50kg sacks of potatoes, which used to sell for Tk1500 each, are now going for Tk400-500.

“Nearly 2500 farmers stored 122,000 sacks of potatoes in our storage but only 22,000 have been sold,” he said.

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Betka Cold Storage Limited General Manager GM Farooque said that the storage was having to sell the potatoes for low prices at a loss of Tk400-500 per sack.

Shah Al Sheikh, a potato farmer in Tongibari Upazila of Munshiganj who has 25,000 sacks of potatoes in the cold storage, says he has stopped going to the facility.

“I’m counting losses of Tk500-600 per sack of potato. What’s the point in going?” he said.

Another potato trader, Shah Alam, who sold only 4,000 sacks of the 14,000 in the cold storage suffered a loss of Tk50 lakh.

“We sold the potatoes for Tk9.5 per kilo when the cost itself, including production, packaging, transport and cold storage fee was Tk18 per kilo,” Shah Alam said.

On the other hand, local markets in Munshiganj are selling potatoes for Tk20-25 per kilogram.

Solaiman Mondal, a potato farmer, says that while local vendors are selling potatoes for that price, they are unable to recover even the production cost.

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Meanwhile, Munshiganj Department of Agricultural Extension former deputy director Mohammad Shah Alam said that prices of potatoes were likely to rise by next month due to crops being destroyed by floods.

The extension’s deputy director could not be reached for comments as the Dhaka Tribune correspondent found his number switched off.

Bangladesh Cold Storage Association General Secretary Mozammel Chowdhury told Dhaka Tribune that farmers were struggling to get proper prices for their crops because of a series of third parties they had to deal with.

“The potato comes to our tables after it goes from the farmer to the wholesalers to the vendors,” he said.

He added that the association had already spoken to the agriculture minister and the authorities so that the country’s diplomatic missions abroad could work on increasing exports.

Farmers and businessmen are of the view that increasing potato consumption and including potatoes among relief items as well as increasing exports can help overcome the problem.

This year, 1.1 crore tons of potatoes were produced in the country but only 35,000 tons were exported.

Dhaka Tribune

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