Traders’ Pressure: Govt raises potato price to Tk 35 a kg



Caving in to the pressure from businesspeople, the government yesterday raised the price ceiling for potato by Tk 5 to Tk 35 per kg at retail markets.

The move came at a time when per kg potato was already selling at Tk 45 and above.

Consumers fear this will give the traders the scope to hike the price further.

Mohammad Yusuf, director general of Department of Agriculture Marketing (DAM), held a meeting with businessmen at his office in Khamarbari, where the price of potato was fixed at Tk 30 a kg at the wholesale level and Tk 27 at the cold storage.

On October 7, the DAM fixed the price ceiling at Tk 30 for retailers and Tk 25 for wholesalers. It also set the price at Tk 23 for businessmen who had kept potatoes in cold storages for future sales.

However, the potato traders did not follow the prices fixed by the government and ultimately hiked the prices up to Tk 50 price per kg at the retail level.

As the government took an initiative to enforce the prices, the businessmen at the cold storages stopped selling, market sources said.

The ground floor of the Karwan Bazar wholesale market used to be crammed with at least thousands of sacks of potatoes. But yesterday the place was found empty and traders spending idle time.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Kawsar Ahmed said over a 1,000 sacks of potatoes used to come to their market but over the last three days the supply had dwindled to a trickle.

“Businessmen are not releasing the potatoes from cold storages,” he added.

Rabiul, a retailer, was selling potatoes at Tk 220 per five kg. “I have only three sacks. After that, I’ll stop selling.”

Abdul Kader came to Karwan Bazar to buy potatoes in bulk. “People from the middleclass, like us, are passing a tough time,” he said, adding he was buying potatoes in bulk as it costs less compared to local market.

Not only consumers, porters who used to live on unloading potatoes from trucks in Karwan Bazar are also facing problems.

Jamaluddin used to earn Tk 300 to Tk 500 unloading potatoes but the amount of money he earned has dropped due to the cut in potato supply.

“[I have] no work….just waiting for trucks,” he said.

Yesterday afternoon, traders assured the government that they would sell potatoes at the new rate, a source at the meeting told the correspondent.

“Everyone got the scope to speak and they raised their concerns,” he said.

Earlier, Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque hinted at fixing a new price for potatoes.

Speaking to journalists at the secretariat, he said farmers did not get fair prices last year and that resulted in their frustration followed by a drop in production.

“Potatoes were given to the Rohingya refugees and used as a relief product during the lockdown… Due to excessive rainfall, many vegetable crops were damaged and people became more dependent on potatoes. As a result, the price shot up,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking to The Daily Star, DAM Director General Mohammad Yusuf, said, “The new price was fixed in favour of the potato traders. If they still do not follow the newly fixed price, we will take action.”

 

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