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West Bengal potato production to drop in 2018

West Bengal potato production to drop in 2018

The potato production in West Bengal is expected to drop from last year’s 11 million tonne to 8-10 million tonnes in 2018, but is unlikely to impact the price, officials said.

January 31, 2018
The potato production in West Bengal is expected to drop from last year’s 11 million tonne to 8-10 million tonnes in 2018, but is unlikely to impact the price, officials said.

Speaking at the 53rd Annual General Meeting of West Bengal Cold Storage Association (WBCSA) in Kolkata on Monday, state Agricultural Marketing Minister Tapan Dasgupta and WBCSA president Patit Paban De shared the view that potato prices would not be hit due to an excess stock of about 9 lakh tonne from last year.

“Production of potatoes will be lesser in comparison to last year, but it will still be far more than the average consumption of the state. Also, last year’s stock will help in keeping the price of potatoes in check,” said De.

The area of cultivation for potatoes has been reduced by five per cent in the state this year. As per sources, the average land allocated for potato cultivation is around 4.6 lakh hectares, but this will be reduced to 4.4 lakh hectares this season.

At present, out of 575 cold storage units in the state, 460 are dedicated to storage of potatoes. With a capacity of 70 lakh MT (metric tonne) and enhanced efficiency, these units have adequate space to store the state’s entire production. However, high crop production across the country severely impacted the market, and despite efforts from all parties involved, the stock of potatoes kept in cold storage could not be fully sold. This despite extending the normal period of storage till December, officials said.

Pointing out that the annual consumption of potatoes in the state is around 65 lakh tons, including seeds, De appealed to the state government to encouraging marketing of the crop in neighbouring states and abroad right after the start of the season.

“We request government authorities to make timely plans for marketing of excess produce… to avoid distress sales. Most of the old cold storage units operate with bank loans for various purposes. However, due to insufficient rent recovery, many are unable to repay the loans. We submit a rent revision prayer to the government every year. The current rate is Rs 152 per quintal for North Bengal and Rs 148 per quintal for South Bengal. We will try to bring it to Rs 180 per quintal,” he said.

When asked about this, Dasgupta told The Indian Express, “They haven’t applied to us yet. However, rent revision depends on the instructions given by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee… We will ensure farmers get their dues. Last year, there was excessive stock, hence they didn’t get good money.”

The minister also said the government is encouraging cold storage owners to turn to solar power.

“In order to maintain an eco-friendly environment, we are encouraging them to install solar power… Solar units will reduce the operating cost. So far, this has been initiated in 10 cold storage units in Midnapore, Bankura, Hooghly, etc…” he said.

However, De pointed out that investing in solar power units was a costly endeavour.

“To run a cold storage 200 kWh solar unit, Rs 1 crore is necessary. However, in absence of any subsidy for such a huge investment, there is a remote possibility of installing such units using one’s own funds.”
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