The Department of Agricultural Marketing fixed the maximum retail price of potato at Tk30 per kilogram as the starchy vegetable skyrocketed to record Tk50-55 per kg.
In recent letters to the deputy commissioners (DCs), the department requested them to monitor district-level markets of the tuber.
Earlier, the Agricultural Marketing Department had prepared a report on the recent hike in potato prices – estimating the production cost, cold-storage fare, wholesale and retail prices. In the report, the Department said the production cost of potatoes that are being sold now computed to Tk8.32 per kg.
Last February during the potato harvesting season, the field-level price of the vegetable was Tk14 per kg. Businessmen purchased potatoes at that rate and stored the tubers to clod storage.
Price per kilogram of potato further rose to Tk19, including Tk3.66 storage fare, Tk0.45 grading cost and Tk0.88 system loss per kg. Big farmers and traders had sold potatoes from cold storage at Tk22.50 per kg during the last week of March, at a profit of Tk3.50 per kilogram.
However, retail prices climbed to Tk50-55, said the Agricultural Marketing Department. Explaining the price hike, the Department said that market demand is exceeding the numbers being released from cold storage by unscrupulous traders, thereby prompting a fake crisis.
Karwanbazar potato commission agent, Md Hafeez told The Business Standard that he had sold the vegetable at Tk16 per kg even a month ago, which has now nearly tripled to Tk44.
Cold Storage Association President, Mosharaf, said that traders had reduced supply of potatoes from cold storage. This has had an impact on the market.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension and the Ministry of Agriculture, the country grew 1.09 tonnes of potatoes in the 2019-20 fiscal year. However, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) said the production was 99 lakh tonnes.
The country consumes around 75-80 lakh tonnes of potatoes per year, which means Bangladesh's production exceeded annual demand.
In the meantime, traders claimed that potato export has increased, while local consumption had also risen due to the recent hikes in prices of other vegetables. The increased demand had pushed potato prices to record high levels.
However, the Agricultural Marketing Department report says that traders have engaged in profiteering, creating an artificial crisis in the potato market.
To curb overpricing, cold storage traders have been directed to sell potatoes at Tk23 per kg, wholesalers at Tk25 and retailers at Tk30.
Mohammad Yousuf, director general of the Agricultural Marketing Department, told TBS, "There are 10 lakh tonnes of potatoes in cold storage, while another 15 lakh tonnes are stored for seeds. There isn't supposed to be a market crisis now. We are now monitoring the market through various agencies to cap the potato price."