Bending over backwards following pressure from other states and agitations by traders associations there,the West Bengal government Monday relaxed its ban on export of potatoes,albeit with a rider,saying it would help in further stabilisation of prices in the state.
We are not lifting the ban. But traders who want to send potatoes to other can do by taking permission of the state government, chief secretary Sanjay Mitra said after a meeting of the task force that monitors retail market of fish and vegetables,at Nabanna. The meeting was presided over by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Officials in the department of agricultural marketing,however,made it clear that it was just a mere formality and people desirous of sending potato consignments out of the state can easily do it.
The embargo will remain,but now people will have to inform the government about the exports and this way we will be aware of how much of the vegetable is available in the market, Subrata Biswas,principal secretary,department of agricultural marketing,told The Indian Express.
The cold storages of the state have stocks of potatoes amounting to 13.5 lakh tonne that can take care of consumption for another two and a half months. We will be able to spare at least 4-5 lakh tonnes before stocks disappear, Biswas further said.
Last week Mamata had imposed the ban despite requests from chief ministers of Orissa and Assam,apparently oblivious of the fact that Bengal had to depend largely on other states like Andhra Pradesh (fish),Karnataka (green vegetables) Maharashtra (onion),Jharkhand (vegetables) to name a few.
The relaxation came in the wake of violent demonstrations in the border districts of Orissa last week where road blockades were mounted and West Bengal-bound trucks carrying fish,egg and other vegetables like cabbages and carrots,were stopped. The chief secretaries of both the states discussed the issue and after deliberations it was decided that while the relaxation on ban on potato from West Bengal will be given,the Orissa government would ensure safe passage of fish and vegetables through the state.
The West Bengal chief secretary,who announced the setting up of a monitoring sub-committee to check prices of potatoes,also announced a 15-day extension of deadline for emptying of cold storages scheduled on November 30.
However confusion still remained among potato traders about who they would approach for permission. We welcome the relaxation of the ban. But we dont know who will give us the permission. There is the department of agricultural marketing and organisations like Benfed and Confed. Let the government clarify, Patitpavan Dey,spokesman for the traders,said.
By Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay