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Punjab potato growers seek govt's help as potato prices crash

December 3, 2011
As potato prices hit unexpected low levels in Punjab, growers have asked the state government to offer freight subsidy for marketing the tuber to other states in order to prevent mounting losses. Growers also warned of throwing potato on roads if state authorities did not intervene to help them by December 10.

Because of excess supply of the crop this year, farmers are fetching unexpectedly lower rates of Rs 1 per kg for potato which was stored in cold storages, while Rs 2-3 per kg for early sown crop. Surprisingly, potato is being sold by retailers at Rs 10- 12 per kg to the consumers. The problem of glut situation arose as farmers stored last year's potato in huge quantity in cold storages this year in anticipation of fetching higher rates by selling to other states. However, due to poor demand for seed potato from other states like Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh etc, price of potato crashed, a senior official of Punjab Horticulture Department said.

Trouble for potato growers further worsened when early sown potato crop in Punjab arrived in the market which again pushed down the rates of cold stored crop, he said. "We are demanding from Punjab government to help us in offering subsidy on freight for its marketing to other states, subsidy on inputs or involve agencies like Nafed and Markfed for making arrangement for export in order to save farmers from facing heavy losses,"Jalandhar Potato Growers Association President Jaswinder Singh Sangha told PTI today.

In the year 2009, when potato rates plummeted, Punjab government had announced freight subsidy of Rs 400 per tonne for purposes of marketing of potato within country and Rs 1,500 per tonne for export. "If state government does not come forward to help us, we will be forced to throw potato on roads after December 10 as we are even unable to recover our input cost (from current rates),"he said. It was in the year 2001 when state potato growers destroyed their crop by throwing almost 30,000 quintals of potato alongside roads in view of oversupply of crop. Farmers pointed out that at least 40-50 lakh bags (50 kg per bag) of last season's potatoes was still lying with farmers.

Punjab grows potato over an area of over 80,000 hectares with annual output of 21 lakh tone. The state has almost 5 to 7 per cent share in country's total potato production and over 60 per cent of state's potato output is seed potato crop, which is supplied to other states.

Potato crop is sown at various places in the state, including Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Moga, Amritsar, Nawanshahar, Bathinda and Phagwara and the state mainly grows potato varieties of Pukhraj, Jyoti, Kufri Chandramukhi, Kufri Bahar and Kufri Ashoka.