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Bangladesh - November 7, 2023

DAE’s false publicity behind potato price hike

Farhad Chowdhury: The government’s Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) said that potato production in the country was about 24 lakh tonnes more than the domestic demand last season. Still, a class of businessmen continue to increase the price of potatoes by showing ‘crisis’. The government has finally announced the import to normalize the situation. Since then, questions about the success of the additional production have been raised from various quarters.
Analysts also question why there is a need for imports if production is surplus. They say that the Department of Agriculture Extension is always giving additional production data to show ‘false success’. That has happened this year as well, which is the major cause of the ongoing potato crisis. Naturally, when production increases, prices come down. But the price of surplus potatoes is increasing. Means there are lumps according to the department.
Those analysts are reluctant to accept that the decision to import potatoes is the right move even though the production is more than the demand. They say, while showing false success, the proper planning of potatoes has been disrupted this year. Although there was indeed a crisis, it was not taken into account. That is why things like government action or long-term planning are not well-planned and accurate. The common people have to bear the cost, and the farmers will also have to bear the cost in the future.
The DAE has given information on the production of 1.12 crore tonnes of potatoes at the end of the last potato production season (FY 2022-23). The production data has to be finalized again with the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). Later, as the final production amount was less in BBS, DA reduced the production to 1 crore 4 lakh 31 thousand tons to adjust the figures. Finally, the production of potato is about 2.4 crore tons more than the domestic demand. Because the country has a maximum demand of 9 crore tons of potatoes every year.
Although traders have been claiming that potato production has decreased this year since the beginning. They claim that due to adverse weather conditions, maximum 8.5 crore tonnes of potatoes are produced in the fiscal year 2022-23. That is, the difference between DAE and traders’ information is about 2 crore tons. Bangladesh Coldstorage Association, an organization of cold storage owners, has made such a claim several times, stating the reason for the price increase since the beginning of this season. However, their information was not taken into account.
So far, the government has discouraged the import of potatoes in view of the surplus potato production data of DAE. However, the National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate and the Ministry of Commerce wanted to import potatoes to deal with the crisis about a month and a half ago. At that time, the Ministry of Agriculture did not give permission because the production was correct. The market of these agricultural products has been affected due to non-importation. Consumers have to pay Tk 60-70 to buy potatoes at retail.
Unable to handle the situation, the government finally decided to import potatoes on October 30 to control the market. Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzak said that approval will be given from that day. After that, allegations started to arise that the Department of Agricultural Extension was showing false success year after year through wrong statistics. Even though the government has promised to be self-sufficient in food, analysts said that the situation is not good.
Anwar Farooq, the former secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture told Daily Industry, “Each Director General of the Agriculture Extension Department wants to show that the production of each product has increased during his tenure. Don’t want to accept the reality. Reluctance to say that any product is short in production. That is why our production is increasing and increasing every year. But this is the reality. I think this is not correct. This year the production of potatoes has also been shown to be higher.
Researcher and Agricultural Economist Jahangir Alam Khan told, “The information provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate of Extension often does not match the reality. There is a big difference between their information and BBS information. In most cases the production information provided is inconsistent.
Former research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) M. Asaduzzaman told, “There is a discrepancy in the data related to food in the country. Unfortunately, there was some consistency in the information on the fat stuff before. Not even now. How much is the actual production, how much people have eaten – different organizations give different information about these. I seem to be hearing different things. Hence proper planning is not done, which harms the consumer and the farmer. That happened in the case of potatoes.
President of Bangladesh Cold Storage Association, Mostafa Azad Chowdhury Babu told, “As DAE has said, if so many potatoes are produced, there should be a surplus of potatoes this year as well.” Now where did these potatoes go? We have said from the beginning, this time the production of potatoes has decreased. No one has heard that.
However, DA Director General Badal Chandra Biswas claimed that there was “no major discrepancy” in the potato production data. He told, “We (DAE) have 14,000 blocks across the country. One third of a union is a block. There is a sub-assistant who gives information on the production.’
He said, ‘The production of a crop does not increase or decrease suddenly. May be a little more or less. That is why there is consistency in the data of continuous production, it can be understood by looking at the data of DAE’s production every year.
Director General A-O said, “DAE does not calculate production data by oil measurement. I do not claim that the information is 100% accurate. But ‘mostly accurate’.
In response to the question why there is always a discrepancy with the data of the Bureau of Statistics if the production data is correct, he said, “The Bureau of Statistics has more problems. They have some clusters determined by the Pakistan period, which they measure and provide production data. Many places are no longer arable land. Roads and houses have become. Still, they are stuck with the older period system. I have been able to explain this to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Stating that questions are being raised about the unnecessary production of potatoes, he said, “Now the price of potatoes has increased, many people are saying on the talk show that the DA has given wrong information. What they measured, we showed more production. It is a continuous matter. Big success cannot be shown suddenly. Rather, production has been shown to be lower this fiscal year than last year.
Badal Chandra Biswas claimed that the price of potato has increased in the syndicate of traders again and said, “This time there is no harmony in the supply and demand of potatoes. It has nothing to do with business ethics. There are no reports of potatoes ever being found in any market. Still, they talk about the crisis. If you pay more money, the potatoes will come out.
He said, ‘There are still potatoes in cold storage. If the production is not high, where did so many potatoes come from? Even yesterday Bogra DC found a large stock of potatoes in a cold storage. In fact, it is the manipulation of a class of businessmen.
President of Potato Exporters Association and Managing Director (MD) of Ferdous Biotech commented that the decision to import potatoes was ‘suicidal’ due to the manipulation of traders. Ferdowsi Begum. He told that the decision to import potatoes would be ‘like cutting off the head for a headache’. In this, 2 crore tons of unsold potatoes will rot in the country. Businessmen will suffer big loss. Where will the extra potatoes go?’
He said, ‘In this month, the farmers’ potatoes will grow in advance. Meanwhile, if new potatoes come from India, they will not get the price. There may be a situation like potato rotting in the field as well.
Ferdausi Begum said, ‘I want to say with responsibility, there is a syndicate here, they have potatoes in their warehouse. Let it be marked. That’s why all traders should not lose. The government should make arrangements for discounting potatoes at a fixed price from cold storage, and bring severe punishment to those who have done this syndicate.’

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