Monday, March 24, 2008

Bumper potato output puts Rajshahi growers in peril

Potato sacks are stockpiled on the premises of Rahman Cold Storage at Nawhata in Rajshahi as authorities put up a sign saying they have stopped receiving potatoes for storage.
Potato growers in 16 districts of Rajshahi division are in great trouble due to lack of storage facility following a bumper production of the crop.

The farmers have harvested around 58 lakh metric tones of potato in the region but there have been only 130 cold storage, which can preserve only 10 lakh tonnes, agriculture department sources said.

Of the remaining 48 lakh tones, some 32 lakh tonnes will be sold in local markets, the sources said. And the rest of 16 lakh tonnes will be preserved traditionally at houses due to lack of storage facility.

But agricultural department officials fear some 20 percent of the 16 lakh tones of potatoes will be damaged.

A prolonged winter this year was behind bumper yield of potatoes from over 3.50 lakh hectares of land in north Bengal.

The bumper production has also pushed the prices down by Tk 180 per 84-kg sack. Potato is now being sold at Tk 800 per sack against Tk 980 even five days back. The price was Tk 750 at Joypurhat.

The hoarders and middlemen have already blocked spaces of cold storage through advance bookings at as high as Tk 130 per sack against the normal rate of Tk 60 to Tk 90, alleged growers.

Cold storage owners are not taking new booking now, compelling growers either to sell potatoes at throwaway prices or store indigenously.

The Directorate of Agriculture Extension (DAE) is circulating leaflets advising farmers to store potatoes at traditional ways on floors.

But this method will lead to destruction of a huge amount of the crop, farmers feared

"We don't have any idea of such crop will be damaged", said M Abdul Matin, additional director of Rajshahi regional DAE.

"We are advocating for traditional method since there is no alternative," he added.

In front of Raj Cold Store in Paba upazila in Rajshahai, Abdur Razzak, a grower, said he middle are taking advantage of the situation.

Kalam, another farmer, said got 810 sacks by cultivating 9 acres of land. "I must preserve those any how. But I don't know how."

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