The retail price of potato spiralled by Tk5 per kilogramme at Dhaka kitchen markets in just two to three days as wholesalers slashed the sale of the starchy tuber.
The wholesalers of the tuber, known as commission agents, bring potatoes from cold storage-level suppliers in credit. After selling it to the retailers, they keep their commissions and then repay the suppliers.
The commission agents said cold-storage level wholesalers are pressurising them to sell the starchy tuber at an inflated rate. In the meantime, mobile courts of several government agencies are conducting drives and fining them for overcharging the customers.
The commission agents said that they have reduced sales in the wake of the pressure from both sides, which has eventually pushed up the retail price.
Visiting several kitchen markets of the capital Sunday, potatoes were found being retailed at Tk45 per kg – Tk5 up from the price two or three days ago. Meantime, wholesalers in Dhaka's Shyambazar, Karwan Bazar, and Krishi Market were selling potatoes at Tk35-37 per kg.
Karwan Bazar Potato Wholesalers Association General Secretary Saifur Rahman Chowdhury said the cold storage-level suppliers are insisting on selling potatoes at above Tk30 – higher than the price fixed by the government.
"But the government is fining us if we sell it at more than Tk30 per kg," he said while explaining why he was not selling potato anymore.
Echoing the same view, another commission agent at Krishi Market said, "The cold storage wholesalers stop potato supply if we fail to sell it at inflated rate. We also cannot sell at spiked prices due to mobile court fines."
"I stopped the sale after counting Tk10,000 in fine. Cold storage wholesalers will not pay the fine if I face punishment during the drive," preferring anonymity, the seller told The Business Standard.
The Department of Agricultural Marketing recently fixed the maximum retail price of potato at Tk35 per kg while the rates at wholesale and cold storage-level were set at Tk30 per kg and Tk27 per kg respectively. However, the vegetable was not being sold at that rates in retail or wholesale.
When contacted, Assistant Director of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection Abdul Jabbar Mandal said that those who would not obey the government instructions would be brought to book.
According to the agriculture ministry, the country has produced 1.09 crore tonnes of potato this year.
Bangladesh eats away 75 lakh tonnes of the tuber per year. At present, the country has a stock of 10 lakh tonnes of potato for consumption while another 15 lakh tonnes are stored for seeds. New potatoes will start arriving in the market at the end of November.
In the wake of the spiralling prices, potato traders claimed that export of the tuber has increased while local consumption also rose owing to the recent hikes in vegetable prices.
The puffed-up demand pushed potato prices to record high, they added.