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Patchy power in Bangladesh pushes up potato prices
Patchy power now pushes up potato prices
June 18, 2023
Frequent power outages in Bangladesh are driving up the costs of potato storage, ultimately burdening people already struggling with escalating prices of essential food items. Potato prices have experienced significant increases, and traders are concerned that rates could rise further due to the heightened storage costs.

In addition, several vegetable prices have seen an increase, while eggs and onions witnessed a slight decline on Friday in the capital, according to trading sources. However, rice, fish, beef, mutton and chicken maintained their previous high prices.

In the city, stored cardinal and granola potato varieties were sold at Tk 40-Tk 45 (USD 0.37-0.42) per kilogram, while the 'red carrage' variety fetched Tk 60-Tk 65 (USD 0.55-0.60) per kilogram. This marks an additional Tk 5.0-10(USD 0.04-0.09) increase per kilogram in just one week.

Juel Rana, a grocer based in West Dhanmondi, said that the wholesale price of the cardinal variety rose to Tk 34-35 (USD 0.34-0.35) per kilogram on Friday morning, compared to Tk 28-30 (USD 0.26-0.28) per kilogram a few days ago.

Similarly, the carrage variety witnessed a Tk 7.0-8.0 (USD 0.06-0.07) per kilogram hike, being sold at Tk 48-50 (USD 0.44-0.46) per kilogram at the Sadeq Khan Agricultural Market in Beribadh.

Morshed Ali, a potato and vegetable trader at Rayerbazar-Beribadh, told the FE that the price per sack of cardinal variety soared to Tk 27-28 (USD 0.25-0.26) per kilogram at the cold-storage level, excluding transport costs.

He expressed concerns that prices might continue to rise as cold-storage operators raise fees to preserve potatoes. Saiful Alam, a farmer-cum-trader based in Nilphamari, said that he stored 2500 sacks of potatoes (50 kilograms per sack) at Sajeda Cold Storage in Saidpur.

Saiful Alam:
"I have already lifted and released 500 sacks into the market."
Initially, the fare per sack was fixed at Tk 300 (USD 2.77), but now the owner is requesting an increase in charges due to load shedding, which has caused a surge in their operating costs. According to Saiful Alam, many cold-storage owners have already instructed traders to accept the price hike or remove their potatoes.

The President of the Bangladesh Cold Storage Association (BCSA), Mostafa Azad Chowdhury Babu, told the FE that the Association has instructed all its members not to increase fares without holding a meeting.

He said that operating costs have risen by 30-40 per cent due to the use of diesel-run generators during the 8-10 hours of daily load shedding. However, no fare increases have been implemented officially yet, as a meeting is scheduled for later this month to discuss the matter.

Mr Babu said that nearly 5.0 million tonnes of potatoes have been preserved this year in around 390 cold storages. However, several traders interviewed by the FE mentioned that potato production has declined compared to last year, which could potentially impact the market in the coming months.

According to estimates by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, potato production is projected to decline from over 10.1 million tonnes last year to 9.4-9.6 million tonnes this year.

S M Nazer Hossain, vice president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), called for intervention from the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) in the potato market, similar to what was done in 2020.

He said that the Ministry of Agriculture must refrain from providing exaggerated data, as they did in 2020, which led to a highly volatile market with retail prices reaching Tk 65 (USD 0.60) per kilogram.

Hossain suggested that exports of potatoes should be immediately restricted if there is a genuine decline in production. He also urged the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics to promptly release potato production data for the nation's best interest.

On Friday, onion prices saw a further decline of Tk 5.0 (USD 0.04) per kilogram, with prices ranging from Tk 60-80 (USD 0.55-0.74) per kilogram in different markets in the city. Egg prices also witnessed a decrease of Tk 5.0 (USD 0.04) per dozen, being sold at Tk 140-145 (USD 1.29-1.34).