AFTER EXPECTING a bumper crop, potato growers of the state are fearing a glut in the peak harvesting season of February and March, coupled with no demand from other states and prices crashing to one of the lowest at Rs 300 per quintal. Growers are saying that post-demonetisation, there has been no rise in price and buyers dwindled, too. Even a couple of years back, potatoes used to be sold at Rs 3,000-4,000 per quintal.
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So, growers are demanding government help to export potatoes and get a good price. Punjab is expecting a production of over 2.2 million tonnes whereas it has the capacity to store around 16 lakh tonnes in the nearly 500 cold stores. But the old crop, lying in the cold stores, needs to be cleared first.
“Middle-East and Russia always prefer our potatoes. But farmers alone cannot do anything as government support is required post-demonetisation,” said Jalandhar Potato Growers Association (JPGA) general secretary JS Sangha.
Small farmers said they cannot even afford to keep potatoes in cold storage which costs more than the price of the crop.
“At mandis, we are forced to sell potatoes for Rs 3 per kilo while in the retail market, it is Rs 9-10 per kg,” said Jagtar Singh, another farmer, from Jandhusinga village.
Sangha said keeping potatoes in cold stores is a burden on big farmers, too, as the rate of the crop is less than the cost of keeping it in cold stores.
“Demonetisation was announced during the sowing season and several traders left without buying the seed which is the best in the country,” said Sangha, adding, “A large amount of our potato seeds went to waste as buyers from other states had no money.”
“There is a huge demand for potatoes in Russia and Middle-East but farmers alone cannot do anything,” said JPGA president Raghbir Singh.
“We have exported potatoes at Rs 900-1,000 per ql to Russia a couple of years ago on our own. Now, if the government helps us to sell potatoes in Russia and Middle-East, then government and potato growers can earn four times more than at present,” said Sangha. “By sea, it takes three-four weeks to send potatoes to Russia and the government should arrange for export via Pakistan as it will reach there much early, but no heed is being paid to that,” he added.