Farmers are planting potato seedlings in the land. In Shivnagar Union of Phulbari Upazila. Photo: Today’s NewspaperIn Phulbari of Dinajpur, there is an acute shortage of potato seeds at the beginning of the season. The price of potato seeds has increased at all three levels, government, private and farmer level. This year, the price of potato seed per kg has been officially fixed at 48.50 paisa to 57.50 paisa. But the market is selling at 90-110 taka per kg. As the shortage of seed potatoes in the market is intensifying, the prices are increasing by leaps and bounds. This has made the farmers reluctant to grow potatoes.
Earlier government companies were selling seed potatoes at Tk 40 to Tk 45, now they have to sell at Tk 60 to Tk 70 per kg.
Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) had fixed the price of potato seeds at Tk 22 to Tk 32 per kg in the last fiscal year 2021-22. In FY 2022-23, the price of potato seed was fixed at Tk 31 to Tk 39 depending on the variety. In the year 2023-24 (financial year), the price of potato seeds has been fixed from Tk 48.50 to Tk 57.50 depending on the variety. However, potato seeds are being sold at a higher price of Tk 10 to Tk 20 per kg than the price of BADC, said Abdul Mannan, a potato farmer of Maheshpur village in Betdighi Union.
According to the Upazila Agricultural Extension Directorate, the target of potato planting has been set in 1 thousand 994 hectares of land in the upazila this year. However, the concerned producers fear that the target will not be met at all this time. However, due to the demand of new potatoes in the market at the beginning of the season, some farmers are starting early sowing of hybrid varieties of potatoes that can be harvested in 50 to 55 days in the high-danga lands of the upazila.
According to the sources of the Dinajpur Agriculture Department office, only 4 percent of the demand for government potato seeds has been allocated in the district. It should be brought again from another district. The capacity of Nashipur Himagara in Dinajpur is only 1 thousand 100 metric tons. To overcome the shortage of potato seeds, the bulk should be brought from outside the district. This will increase the cost of transportation.
Sources also said that the target of potato cultivation has been set on 45 thousand 500 hectares of land in the entire district. Out of which 10,000 hectares of land are cultivated in early potatoes. 75 thousand 75 metric tons of seed potatoes are required in this 45 thousand 500 hectares of land. But the allocation was found to be 3 thousand 86 metric tons. Which is only 4 percent of demand. Apart from this, the price of potato seeds has been increased from 20 taka 50 paisa to 24 taka per kg per variety. BADC Potato Seed Division coordinates seed potatoes from all over the country and allocates them district wise. But no such allocation has been found in Phulbari, according to sources in the Agriculture Office.
Mozammel Haque, supervisor of Phulbari cold storage, said that 7 thousand 150 metric tons of potatoes were stored in our cold storage this season. Of this, 3,926 metric tons of potatoes have already been sold. Farmers of neighboring upazilas Parvatipur, Chirirbandar, Nawabganj and Birampur, Hakimpur upazilas had stored 3 thousand 224 metric tons of seed potatoes in this cold storage. Which is now being planted. It is very less than required. Imports have to be made to meet the market demand.
According to the sources of Upazila Agriculture Office, in the financial year 2021-2022, 45 thousand 996 metric tons of potatoes were produced in 1 thousand 919 hectares of land in this upazila, but in the last financial year 2022-2023, potatoes were produced in 1 thousand 770 hectares of land, 41 thousand 595 metric tons. As compared to 2021-2022 financial year, 3 thousand 501 metric tons of potatoes were produced less in 2022-2023 financial year, this has had a severe impact on the market.
In Shivnagar Union, which produces more potatoes in the upazila, some areas including Polishibnagar, Gopalpur, Rajarampur, Nurpur, Shamshernagar, Gangaprasad, Gopalpur, Rajarampur, Nurpur, Shamshernagar have been visited, there are many fallow lands. Farmers are preparing for corn cultivation as the price of potato seeds is high.
Ashraful Islam, a farmer of Polishibnagar village in Shivnagar union of the upazila, said that he is planting Romana and kerez potatoes on one and a half acres of land. Last time he cultivated potatoes on 3 and a half acres of land. As the cost of seeds is high, sow less and plant corn on the rest of the land.
A potato grower of Khairbari Union, Bibal Chandra said, 10 days ago, he bought 120 kg of red potato seeds from Bartali in Joypurhat district for 6 thousand taka. It cost 900 rupees to bring. Now the price is higher.
Liton Kumar Das and Sanjay Kumar Das of that area will plant potatoes on 1 bigha of land this time, last time they planted 2 bighas. Another farmer Anwar Hossain will plant potatoes in the 20th century land. Last time it was planted in 1 bigha land.
Upazila Agriculture Officer Rumman Akhtar said that although the price of potato seeds is a bit high, the target of potato cultivation will be achieved as the price is good.
Upazila Executive Officer Mir Md. Al Kamah Tamal said, ‘We are monitoring the potato market. But I learned about the price of potato seeds, now monitoring will be done there too.
Mumtaz Begum, Assistant Director of District Consumer Rights Protection Department, said, ‘If our BADC sends a letter saying that potato seeds are being sold at a higher price than the fixed price, then we will also help them. Monitoring will be done to control the market.’