- Bangladesh earns $11.65m exporting potato in 2020-21
- 95% potatoes exported through Ctg seaport
- Government provides 20% cash incentive for potato export
- Production 30% more than the demand
- On average 80 lakh tonnes of potatoes produced per year
- 80% of exported potatoes go to Malaysia
The country's potato exports through Chattogram seaport have reached a record level in the current financial year despite the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country's export trade.
With two and a half months left till the end of the current financial year, potato export through the country's premier seaport has increased by 15,191 tonnes or 48.38% compared to the entire of the previous year.
As of 15 April, 46,593 tonnes of potatoes were exported through Chattogram in the current 2020-21 fiscal year, according to the Plant Quarantine Station of Chattogram seaport.
The average price of a tonne of potato exported to different countries is $250. In the current fiscal, Bangladesh has thus far earned $11.65 million by exporting potatoes.
In FY20, 31,402 tonnes of potatoes were exported through Chattogram port, while the volumes were 32,089 tonnes and 29,359 tonnes in FY19 and FY18, respectively.
Md Nasir Uddin, deputy director of the Plant Quarantine Station of Chattogram seaport, said, "Other government offices were closed during the Covid-19 induced general holidays, but the activities of this department were active to continue the import and export trade by sea."
"In the remaining two and a half months of the current financial year, the export volume will exceed 50,000 tonnes," he added.
Around 95% of the total potato export in the country is done through the Chattogram seaport. The remaining 5% is exported through Banglabanda.
According to potato exporters, the government is providing a 20% cash incentive to potato exporters. Moreover, the amount of potatoes produced in the country is 30% more than the total domestic demand.
There is a huge demand for potatoes in the world market, exporters said, adding that if the world market demand can be utilised, the country will be able to earn a lot of foreign exchange from this sector.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, the country produces about 80 lakh tonnes of potatoes on an average every year.
Potato farmers do not get a fair price as the production is about 30% more than the demand of the country. Being unable to store the extra potatoes in cold stores, potato growers often sell those at a lower price.
People concerned think if the government is more proactive in exporting surplus potatoes, the country will be able to achieve milestones in exporting this product.
According to the Plant Quarantine Station, about 80% of potatoes exported through Chattogram seaport go to Malaysia.
Besides, potatoes are exported to other countries including Vietnam, Maldives, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brunei, Oman, Hong Kong, Qatar. Bangladesh mainly exports four types of potatoes- Ganala, Oval Diamond, Manila and Red potatoes.
Since potato production is increasing at a rate of about 5.19% per annum, it is necessary to focus on quality to further expand the potato export sector
Dr Sheikh Abdul Quader, president of Bangladesh Potato Exporters Association, said the increase in potato exports as compared to last year is a positive sign for the export of agricultural products. However, there is an opportunity to double this amount, he added.
"Our potatoes lack the quality which is needed to meet the demand of the international market. We need research and technology to overcome this lack. Since potato production is increasing at a rate of about 5.19% per annum, it is necessary to focus on quality to further expand the potato export sector," he said.
The potato exporters hope that the government agencies will be more sincere in exporting potatoes, including stopping extortion in road transport, waiving tolls, determining the quality of potatoes in the presence of agricultural officials, and taking steps to encourage new companies to export potatoes.
Md Sabbir Ghaff, managing director, Sana Trading, said, "Potatoes are procured from the northern part of the country including Rangpur, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon and Joypurhat.
"Sometimes, trucks full of potatoes have to wait for days due to delay in procedural activities. This affects the quality of potatoes. If we export these potatoes, it will harm the image of the country. Therefore, a separate zone needs to be set up for potato shipping and container filling at the port or off-dock."