A drive to increase the country’s potato exports reached an important landmark on Sunday when a special shipment of potatoes left Bangladesh, destined for Singapore, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates.
According to a FAO press release, Bangladeshi farmers often struggle to export their produce despite strong and growing overseas demand, due to insufficient quality control mechanisms, limited cold storage facilities, and restricted access to foreign buyers.
Bangladesh produces around 11 million tonnes of potatoes annually but a negligible amount is exported. While internal potato consumption has remained steady, exports have been declining over the past few years, while production has actually been increasing, leaving many farmers unable to sell their surplus produce.
In order to exploit export opportunities, the UN/FAO has been assisting farmers in recent times in order to increase their income by growing potatoes specifically for foreign markets.
FAO’s Missing Middle Initiative (MMI) project provided sixty farmers from three cooperatives – more than half of whom are women – with training, plus pre-production, inspection, and post-harvest assistance.
The farmers grew three varieties of potato chosen to appeal to the export market and were provided with high quality seeds from the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC).
FAO also organised a buyer-seller meeting for officials from the Bangladesh Potato Exporters’ Association (BPEA) to meet smallholder potato farmers for the first time. Officials from the BPEA then liaised with foreign buyers to get specifications and orders.
Robert D Simpson, FAO Representative in Bangladesh, said the export market for potatoes was a great opportunity.