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Bangladesh shifts from potato exporter to importer

Bangladesh, once self-reliant and a surplus producer of potatoes, exporting to 16 countries with a peak export of 200,000 tons three years ago, has seen a shift in its agricultural dynamics. The country has begun importing potatoes to satisfy domestic demand, marking a significant turn from its previous status. This transition is part of a broader trend where exports of several agricultural products, including green chillies, tomatoes, and carrots, are on the rise, whereas their imports are gradually increasing.

Recent data from the National Board of Revenue (NBR) reveals that Bangladesh imported 98,731 tons of potatoes at a cost of 15.7 million US dollars during the 2023-24 fiscal year, while exporting only 12,352 tons, generating 3.8 million US dollars. This shift has prompted experts and exporters to call for better market management and preservation systems to reduce dependency on imports and boost exports, ensuring fair pricing and more robust export figures.

For the first time in over half a century, Bangladesh commenced commercial importation of potatoes on November 2, 2023, through various land ports, in response to soaring domestic prices. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) authorized the import of 530,000 tons of potatoes for the 2023-24 fiscal year. Despite the growing imports, the DAE reports an increase in potato production, with an estimated 10.9 million tons produced, closely meeting domestic demand.

Similarly, the importation of carrots, tomatoes, and green chillies has seen an uptick, moving from low-volume off-season imports to more significant quantities. This change comes as the government seeks to stabilize market prices during periods of high demand. Export figures for potatoes, however, have declined from a record 208,000 tons in the 2020-21 fiscal year to approximately 12,000 tons in the current fiscal, with the number of export destinations reducing from 16 to 11 countries. Additionally, cash assistance for potato exports has been decreased from 20 percent to 15 percent this year.


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