Agra may be famous for its monuments, but it also holds 7% of India's cold storage capacity
- more than in the whole of Punjab.
Almost all of it is used to store potatoes.
How did the city and surrounding areas become India's cold storage hub and what has it meant for the price of potatoes?
Earlier this month, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee called for a ban on the movement of potatoes out of the state due to rising prices there. West Bengal is the second biggest producer of potato and such a move would almost certainly impact the prices across the country.
Farmers in the rest of India are likely to benefit, with prices moving north. Few will track the potential fallout of the chief minister's decision more closely than a group of entrepreneurs and businessmen in the district of Agra.
Agra now has a cold storage capacity of around 2.2 million tonnes, according to the Agra Cold Storage Owners Association (ACSOA). Almost all of it is used to store potatoes. The district now has 7% of the cold storage capacity in the country which is more than in the whole of Punjab. Or more than the combined cold storage capacity of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka put together.
"We have certainly benefited from the growth in cold storages," says Vijay Pratap Singh, a farmer of Garhi Purani village, about 30 km from the city. He grows potatoes in about 13 acres of land. "Earlier farmers had to sell produce at once - now they can wait till they get a good price."
Agra's cold storage success story is all the more dramatic given the lack of success elsewhere. That such a huge chunk of cold storage capacity should be concentrated in just one district of the country is not necessarily a good thing - especially when other parts of the country are starved for such storage.
Potato Production in India (in million tonnes). Courtesy The Economic Times/National Horticulture board.