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The Financial Express

Clueless, authorities plan potato imports to cut price

Groceries run out of produce as traders hoard


| Updated: October 21, 2020 13:25:44


With a disappointed look on his face, a labourer sitting idle at a deserted wholesale market at Karwanbazar in the city on Tuesday, as traders refrained from selling potatoes for the last two days over some contentious issues arising out of sudden price hike of the essential kitchen item — FE photo by Shafiqul Alam With a disappointed look on his face, a labourer sitting idle at a deserted wholesale market at Karwanbazar in the city on Tuesday, as traders refrained from selling potatoes for the last two days over some contentious issues arising out of sudden price hike of the essential kitchen item — FE photo by Shafiqul Alam

The government was clueless about the abrupt potato price hike, agriculture minister Dr Mohammad Abdur Razzaque said on Tuesday, hinting at import to stop the market from getting overheated.

"Our key objective is farmers get fair prices of their produce, but it was not known to us that the price might go up by such high margin," the minister told reporters.

Terming the spike a temporary phenomenon, the minister expressed the hope that the price would come down soon.

He also said the government is also considering import potato from Pakistan, Myanmar, Turkey, Iran and Egypt if necessary.

Meanwhile, the government has revised both retail and wholesale prices of potato by Tk 5.0 per kg.

With the revision, the maximum retail price of potato has been fixed at Tk 35 a kg and that of wholesale at Tk 30 a kg.

On October 07, the maximum retail and wholesale prices of potato were fixed at Tk 30 and Tk 25 a kg respectively by the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM), which came into effect from October 14.

However, the cold storage price has now been revised upward to Tk 27 from Tk 23 set by the DAM.

Director general of DAM Mohammad Yusuf came up with the disclosure after a meeting with the representatives of cold storage owners, wholesale traders, agriculture ministry, commerce ministry, the Directorate of National Consumers Right Protection, Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) representatives on Tuesday at DAM office.

The DAM organised the meeting following the supply shortage of potato in the markets as traders were reluctant to sell the produce at the rate fixed earlier.

The DAM warned of going tough against the traders who would not release potatoes from the storage houses even after enhancement of the potato prices.

"We have taken the decision considering pleas from the traders and farmers. The government will be compelled to sell potatoes from the cold storage units under the DAM ACT 2018, Section-12, if traders do not release the produce on their own," said Mr Yusuf.

However, the Bangladesh Cold Storage Owners Association president Mosharaf Hossain said the latest prices should be effective in the cold stores from now on.

Shyambazar Potato Araatdar Association secretary Jahangir Alam said it would take one or two days to implement the latest price at city wholesale and retail levels as traders have to empty their old stock.

He requested the law enforcement agencies to consider the matter.

Before re-fixing the price, vice president of BCSA Ishtiaque Ahmed proposed to fix a price of potato, which must be higher than that of India.

"Otherwise, the produce could be sent to India by traders," he warned.

Potato wholesalers almost stopped selling potato in the major wholesales like Karwan Bazar, Shyambazar, Rayer Bazar, Mohammadpur Krishi Market until Tuesday noon in the city to avoid any legal hassles as government monitoring agencies were conducting drives, said traders.

Many groceries had shortage of potato on Tuesday amid closure of wholesales, said traders.

Potato, however, was retailed at Tk 46-55 a kg at retail and Tk 39-44 a kg at wholesale markets on the day.

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