Potato prices have surged 28-38% in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the top two producers of the tuber which has become the staple across India during the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
There has been an increase in demand for the tuber from the southern states, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Assam, with the result that prices have increased to Rs 23-25 per kg from Rs 18 per kg.
Traders said prices had remained firm since the beginning of the year but were expected to drop from March before the spread of the coronavirus changed the scenario. The moment the lockdown was announced, people bought potato in bulk and stored it amid fears that they might not get their supplies later. This led to the spurt in prices.
Arvind Agarwal, secretary at Cold Storage Association of Uttar Pradesh:
“Prices have remained firm from the beginning of this year, as harvesting was delayed due to unseasonal rains. We were expecting prices would fall from March, but that didn’t happen as a sudden demand emerged due to the lockdown.”
“About 60-65% of the cold storages in UP have been loaded with potatoes. Still, potatoes are coming from Agra and Allahabad.”
“All the states are asking for potatoes as it is not perishable and can be stored for a longer period.”
Agarwal said the lockdown and the disruption in movement of transport pushed up prices.
At the farmgate level, the price of potato is hovering around Rs 14-15 per kg. At the wholesale level, the price is around Rs 18-20 per kg. UP produces 15.5-16 million tonnes of potato and is the largest producer in the country.
In West Bengal, loading of potatoes into cold storage, which is usually complete by March-end, is down by around 10% so far this year, on account of labor shortage in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Sowing and harvesting of potatoes have been delayed in the state due to unseasonal rains and the production is estimated to be 9 million tonnes, lower than the usual production of 11-12 million tonnes.
Patit Paban De, member, West Bengal Cold Storage Association:
“There is huge demand from the adjoining states and southern India during this lockdown period. Prices will remain firm now.”