The Financial Express

Traders back potato export ban until Dec

Write letter to Commerce Ministry

| Updated: October 24, 2020 22:11:06

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
File photo used for representational purpose. File photo used for representational purpose.

In line with the government's desire, the country's cold storage owners want to suspend potato exports until December to stabilise the price of widely-consumed vegetables in the market.

The Bangladesh Cold Storage Association (BCSA) suggested the government review the potato prices carefully to avoid any negative impact on the produce market.

It has recently proposed the commerce ministry to issue an order for the suspension of potato exports until December.

Bangladesh exports potato to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Brunei, Oman, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Maldives, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Qatar, the European Union, and Nepal.

Last year, the average export price was U$250 per tonne, according to the data.

In a letter to the ministry, the association said marginal farmers and traders have been incurring losses during the last couple of years due to excessive production of the produce.

The country's potato production was about 10.9 million tonnes in 2019 against an annual demand of 7.7 million tonnes.

It was 10.3 million and 10.7 million tonnes in 2018 and 2017 respectively in the country, according to the association data.

Meanwhile, the government has taken several measures to contain its recent price spiral.

Of the measures, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) has introduced open market sales of potato at subsidised rate of Tk25 a kilogramme in the city on October 21.

The government fixed the maximum retail price of potato at Tk 35 a kg recently to keep prices from shooting up.

The maximum cold storage level price has been re-fixed at Tk 27 and the wholesale level price at Tk 30 a kg.

As part of containing the price of the vegetable, the government is considering suspending exports of the vegetable item for the time being, a senior official said.

But farmers and traders are not releasing their stored potato from the cold store units due to mismatch between the production cost and the current market price of potato, creating supply shortage in the market, a person familiar with the situation said.

Currently, around 2.3 million tonnes of potatoes have stored in the country's 393 cold storage units. Of the volume, some 1.0 million are seeds potatoes.

Generally, potato cultivation starts in September-October in the country and the produce hits the market in the month of November or December. But it was not possible due to flood, which is responsible for the price hike in potato. For the same reason, the country may experience a shortage of potato up to 0.6 million tonnes.

The association has asked its members to encourage the potato preservers to release the produce to keep the price of stable, according to the association letter.

In fiscal year 2019-20, some 45,000 tonnes of potato were exported, up by 29 per cent year-on-year.

Data available with the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) shows that through exporting the kitchen staple, the traders earned some US$23.30 million in last fiscal year.

When contacted, the BCSA president M Mosharraf Hossain told the FE his grouping has proposed to the government to ban export of potato to boost supplies while arresting the price spike.

He, however, said potato is not being exported now due to the price surge.

On Thursday, potato was selling at Tk 40 per kg, according to TCB.

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