The government is considering a ban on potato export after the starchy tuber hit Tk55 per kg in the local market. Agriculture and Commerce Ministry officials have already discussed the matter and they said the decision might be finalised next week.
They said Commerce Minister, Tipu Munshi will finalize the matter after discussing it with Agriculture Minister, Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque. Besides, Commerce Ministry will decide whether the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) will initiate open market sales of potatoes.
While contacted, Commerce Secretary, Md Jafar Uddin told The Business Standard that the decision to levy the ban on potato exports would be taken after discussions with the Agriculture Ministry.
"The Agriculture Ministry is yet to formally propose putting a stop to potato export. The Commerce Minister will return home from abroad today [Thursday] and will meet the Agriculture Minister," he added.
"State-run TCB played a crucial role in easing this year's onion crisis by selling the bulb at a lower price on the open market. We are considering TCB sales of potatoes to resolve this crisis as well," Jafar Uddin told TBS.
However, potato exporters were critical of the export ban as a measure to cap rising prices.
Sheikh Abdul Quader, managing director of Agriconcern Ltd, told TBS that the export ban would not yield much as the price per tonne of the tuber was at $250-300 on the international market.
"This means that the export price of potatoes is around Tk21-25 per kg, while the local market rate is Tk50-55. No one is currently exporting the tuber as the local market prices are skyrocketing," he said.
The Managing Director of Agriconcern – one of the country's largest potato exporters – said that whether the government decides to ban it or not, potato export will remain suspended on its own until the new harvesting season.
In the past few years, Bangladesh exported an average of 30,000 tonnes of the tuber. Malaysia is the main buyer of Bangladeshi potatoes, with the East Asian country accounting for nearly 75% of total exports.
Besides, Bangladeshi potatoes are exported to Maldives, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Hong Kong. Dhaka exports 5% of its total exports to Nepal and Bhutan through Banglabandha land port.
According to the Chattogram Port Plant Quarantine Centre, 31,402 tonnes of potatoes were exported through the seaport during the just-concluded 2019-20 fiscal year. Besides, 32,089 tonnes of potatoes were exported in 2018-19, and 29,359 tonnes in 2017-18.
The Agriculture Ministry says the country has produced 1.09 crore tonnes of potatoes this year. However, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics said the country produced 99 lakh tonnes of potatoes this year.
The country consumes 75 lakh tonnes of the tuber per year. At present, the country has a stock of 10 lakh tonnes of potatoes for consumption, while another 15 lakh tonnes are kept in storage for future consumption. New potatoes will start arriving in the market by the end of November.