After witnessing record low prices for the new crop in the beginning of harvest season this year, a majority of potato farmers in West Bengal now have a reason to cheer.
Wholesale prices of the new crop (Jyoti variety), which were ruling at around Rs 200-250 a quintal in December end and early January, have now jumped to Rs 700-720 a quintal.
The rise in prices is mainly on account of a dip in production of the tuber across the country this year, said Mr Patit Paban De, member, West Bengal Cold Storage Association. Production is likely to drop by 15 per cent to about 80 lakh tonnes this year, against a bumper production of 95 lakh tonnes last year.
“The area under cultivation has gone down this year as a number of farmers did not sow potato seeds because of the heavy losses last year. The area under cultivation has come down to 3.75 lakh hectare (4 lakh hectare) this year,” Mr De told Business Line.
There has also been a 20 per cent dip in production in UP, the country's largest potato producing State. According to Mr Mahendra Swarup, President, Federation of Cold Storage Association, the drop in production in UP was primarily due to lesser availability of fertilisers and late blight attack on crops.
Harvesting usually begins around the third week of December and goes on till March end. Early harvesting, which takes place in the districts of Bankura and Midnapore in mid December or early January, accounts for only about 5 per cent of the total production, Mr De said.