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Bumper Yield Plagues India’s Potato Farmers

Bumper potato production has placed farmers in a quandary across India. According to several news reports, farmers have been forced to destroy potatoes due to falling prices and lack of storage facilities.

Thousand of potato growers in southwest UP, West Bengal,Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh have either resorted to destroy their produce or left it at farms and cold storages.

Owners of cold storage are also incurring losses. As per the initial data, potato production is estimated at 493 lakh tonnes in 2017-18 compared to the actual output of 486 lakh tonnes in 2016-17.

As per the Agriculture Ministry, there were 7,645 cold storages with a capacity of 34.95 million metric tonnes in the country. Of these, 95 per cent of cold storages in the country are owned by private sector, three per cent by cooperatives, and the remaining two per cent under Public Sector Undertakings.

This past Saturday, the Yogi Adityanath Government in Uttar Pradesh faced an embarrassing situation as quintals (a unit of weight equal to a hundredweight) of potatoes were thrown by the farmers in front of the Vidhan Sabha building and outside the Chief Minister’s residence.

This was not the first case when farmers resorted to destroying potatoes due to lowering prices and lack of cold storage facilities. Ranvir Singh of the Bharatiya Kisan Union said farmers are not getting adequate price for their harvest and they do not know where to keep it. Faced with a similar situation last year, farmers had protested by dumping their produce on roadsides when prices dropped.

“As a result, potato growers have been forced to sell their crop at throwaway rates. Last year, farmers distributed potatoes free of cost during their protest at Jantar Mantar in the national capital,” Binod Pandey, member secretary of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, said. Farmers, who could stock their produce in the cold storages, have already done it. But still, there is a large quantity lying in the fields, Pandey added.

In a typical year, potato is planted in mid-October and early November. After harvesting towards February-March, only 15-20 per cent of the crop is sold. Farmers keep the remaining 80-85 per cent in cold stores — where the potatoes are maintained at 4-5 degrees Celsius — and make staggered sales through the summer and monsoon months.

The major produce is stored in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

As per data, UP produces 14,430.28 tonnes of potatoes per year and the yield is 23,901 kilogram per hectare; followed by West Bengal where production and yield of the potatoes is 11,591.30 tonnes and 29,982 kilogram per hectare.

Bihar has ranked third in potato. The yield of potatoes is 20,593 kilogram per hectare. In Haryana the total potato cultivation covers 29.47 hectares and its production is about 22,939 kilogram per hectare.

Source: The Pioneer, India

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