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Though potato sowing season is over in all the key potato growing states across the country, over 3 lakh tonnes of potato seed worth around Rs 900 crore are still lying in over 500 cold stores of Punjab, which is the only producer of seed. Potato growers say there are no buyers and that they are yet to receive full payments even for the stocks they have already supplied to other states before and after the demonetisation.
Also, they say, the government announcement allowing farmers to purchase seed with old currency notes came quite late when the potato sowing season in other states was almost about to end.
In Punjab, potato planting season is from September-end till early October while in other states, it is between October 25 and November 25.
“In every cold store, around 10,000 to 12,000 bags of 50 kg each have been lying. Now, we do not know where to go and what to do,” said Jaswinder Singh Sangha, general secretary of the Jalandhar Potato Growers Association. “I have got 22,000 packets of government certified seed in my own cold store but there is no taker.”
Sangha said Punjab farmers were selling potato seeds at Rs 30-35/kg to the traders from other states before the announcement of the demonetisation on November 8, but after that, buyers simply vanished.
“The government has put us in a big trouble and it should compensate us now,” said Sangha.
“Now we are planning to throw this potato seed either on roads or to distribute it to the poor as there is no taker. We cannot afford to keep these in cold stores where we have to pay rent and also for next crop which will start coming in February we have to empty our stores,” said Raghbir Singh, the president of JPGA.
Meanwhile, the rate of table potato has been hovering between Rs 800 and 1000 per quintal in wholesale market.
Punjab’s potato farmers are the main seed supplier of the crop across the country. The state produces about 2.2 metric tonnes, out of which 1.5 MT comprises seed potatoes only. Currently, Punjab supplies about 1.1 MT of potato seed to other states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and other potato producing state and meets around 63 per cent of the seed demand of the country every year.
Doaba region, where potato seed is grown on 90,000 hectares of area, is the home of potato seed for the entire country. Jalandhar too has big potato producers.
The sowing takes place in early-October and harvesting towards February-March, after which the produce is put in cold stores. Yields of seed potatoes, at 8-10 tonnes per acre, are below the 12-14 tonnes for normal table potatoes. But while the latter sell at Rs 1,000-1,200 per quintal, seed potatoes fetch rates that range from Rs 2,500-3,500 for branded and Rs 1,800-2,000 for unbranded material.