The annual demand for potatoes in Bangladesh is about 9 million tons
The Bangladesh Cold Storage Association (BCSA) urged the government to provide a Tk9 subsidy over per kilogram of potato stored in various cold storages in the country.
During a press briefing on Saturday, it sought immediate aid to save millions of rural farmers due to the situation led by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Citing the bumper yield of potato in recent times, it further asked to halt the electricity bills of the cold storages for the months of September and October and instalment facilities to pay the rest of the amount.
BCSA President Md Mosharaf Hossain said that over 11 million tons of potatoes are being produced due to the cultivation in more lands in the current year.
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About 4 million tons of potatoes were stored in 400 cold storages in March and April.
The annual demand for potatoes in Bangladesh is about 9 million tons. As such, there is a possibility of having a surplus of about 1.5 million tons of potatoes.
“If the government does not take timely action on the use of these surplus potatoes, the market will collapse like last year,” Mosharaf Hossain said.
It is also noted that marginal farmers, small and medium traders, banks and cold storage owners will suffer from a financial loss like 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The losses of individual and cold storage owners exceeded Tk12,500 crore in 2017 due to the catastrophic landslide in the potato market.
“Frustrated by that year's business losses, several cold storage owners have died of heart attack and several marginal farmers and traders have committed suicide,” BCSA president further said.
This is due to the fact that hotels, restaurants, shops, residential halls were mostly closed in 2021 due to coronavirus infection and the use of potatoes has decreased due to the lack of people’s movement, BCSA highlighted in the brief.
Earlier, 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.
This year, 11 million tons of potatoes were produced in the country but only 35,000 tons were exported.
While speaking at potato export discussion last month, Agriculture Minister Md Abdur Razzak said: “All possible cooperation will be provided for the export and processing of potatoes.”
He said that the country currently produces more than 10 million tons of potatoes a year. But potato chips such as pringles needs to be imported from abroad at a high price.
Institutions involved in potato processing and value addition in the country need to produce quality chips, french fries. “We need to find out what other products can be made using the versatility of potatoes,” the minister further said.