Potato prices are unlikely to go down soon in West Bengal because of a drop in production this year as well as rise in online potato trade,which has caused an exodus of stocks from Bengal to other states.
The Mamata Banerjee government had aimed to keep a tab on prices by setting up a task force to stop black-marketing and hoarding of essential commodities.
However,in retail markets in the metropolis and urban areas,potatoes are selling at Rs 12-15 per kilogram.
This year,potato was sowed in just 3.75 lakh hectares of land in Bengal because of heavy losses incurred by farmers last year and increase in fertilizer prices. A 20 per cent fall in potato production in Uttar Pradesh – the largest potato producing state – encouraged online potato traders,who are buying potato bonds from Bengal and selling them to UP and other states.
State agriculture marketing minister Arup Roy said Bengal’s potato production during December-March dropped by 15 per cent.
“We have reports that potatoes worth more than Rs 300 crore were sold online to other states,” Roy told The Indian Express. However,he claimed that the resultant hike in prices was marginal and not alarming.
“This time last year,people purchased potatoes at Rs 6 per kg and farmers had to sell under distress conditions because of middlemen. This time,the menace was checked by task force committee members,” Roy said.
The minister said prices in retail markets were lower than that last year. “Potatoes are sold in the fields at Rs 8 per kg. The farmers therefore are getting the right price. Potatoes are sold in the retail market at Rs 12 per kg. This is because of increasing transport cost and not due to middlemen.”
“This year overall potato production of the country dropped because of soaring prices of fertilizers and pesticides. Because of this shortfall,potato bonds are being purchased online by traders of the other states,” said Swapan Samanta,a potato trader and functionary of Trinamool-controlled Tarakeswar municipality. “But potato prices are not beyond the reach of the people.”