The government has decided to take stern actions against those involved in potato-market manipulation and instructed the district administrations across the country to take austere steps in this regard.
The measures would be taken if the government agencies concerned find involvement of any traders in any irregularities in selling the key essential item, sources said.
The Bangladesh Competition Commission (BCC), a state agency, asked the deputy commissioners (DCs) to take legal action if the traders are involved in illegal activities, including creating artificial crisis and volatility in the potato market, they added.
The decision came from the 9th meeting of the BCC held last week, based on its recent inspection on different cold storages and retail markets in Munshiganj district against the backdrop of volatile prices and artificial crisis in the market.
The BCC team, composed of representatives from the Munshiganj district administration, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) and Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM), also monitored the truck-sale of potatoes.
It put forward a set of recommendations, including setting a rate for preservation in the cold storages that must provide the buyers or traders concerned with authentic receipt slips.
The inspection team suggested introducing different rent rates of cold storages for various periods.
Besides, it suggested preparing a list of market intermediaries by the district administrations, operating truck-sale of potatoes and ensuring a specific time frame for preservation of the food items.
The BCC also forwarded the decisions taken based on the suggestions to the DCs so that they could take measures in these regards, officials said.
On September 14 last, commerce minister Tipu Munshi fixed the prices of potatoes after necessary discussion with the stakeholders concerned and the agriculture ministry.
On the same day, he urged the traders concerned to sell potatoes at Tk 26-27 per kg wholesale and retail it at Tk 35-36 per kg.
But the key essential item was selling at higher than the fixed prices.
During the last couple of days, the prices of potatoes reduced as the imported potatoes started arriving in the market.
The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) recorded a 30-40 per cent hike in potato prices in a week and the current price is 109 per cent higher than last year's.
Potatoes are now being sold at Tk 45-50 per kg compared to Tk 60-65 per kg last week, according to the TCB.
A senior commerce ministry official said the government will take austere steps like cancelling licences, imposing fines and sentencing jail terms if the item is not sold at the set prices.
According to DAM data, all registered cold storages had 2.49 million tonnes of potatoes at the season's beginning this year which was 2.70 million tonnes in 2022.
However, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) claimed potato production in FY '23 was 11.2 million tonnes, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) said it would be 10.4 million tonnes and BCSA claimed it to be 8.5 million tonnes.