Surplus potato output in Bengal: State govt's aid sought

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Kolkata, Jul 14 (UNI) The West Bengal Cold Storage Association (WBCSA) today sought the state government's assistance in direct selling of potatoes as a huge stock had piled up in the cold storages following surplus output.

Informing this to newspersons here today, Association president Patit Paban De said the state had notched up 25 per cent rise in the potato output at 88 lakh tonnes (lt) against the figures of last year, which was 15 per cent more than the normal production. As a result, 80 per cent of the stocks had been kept by the farmers and cultivators in the storages, Mr De added.

He said 52 lt had been stored against a total capacity of approximately 54 lt, in around 370 potato cold storages in West Bengal.

" However, the local requirement of potato was around 32 lt from mid-May to mid-December last year. Therefore, the gap between demand and supply, which stood at 22 lt, needs to be considered for utilisation by other states and country," he felt.

The WBCSA president said a letter, expressing the worries of potato sector and the cold storage industry alike, had been been sent to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and state Minister for Agriculture (Marketing) Mortaza Hussain.

The Association has also urged the government to purchase surplus potato through NAFED and BENFED and market it.

Utilisation of potato in the flood relief and inclusion of the vegetable in the Hundred Days Work Programme of the government had also been sought, Mr De said.

Similarly, the association has requested the railways to treat potato at par with some essentials in terms of incentives for transportation. The president also felt the necessity to allow 20 wagon rakes for transporation of potato to all destinations in the country, regardless of the ceiling imposed at up to 500 km.

Moreover, WBCSA urged the government to raise the support price for potato at the time of loading to minimise the loses incurred by the farmers and cultivators, estaimated to the tune of Rs 750 crore, since it was not based on incidental expenses like packaging, assorting and carrying.

Potato prices had been experiencing an increase of Rs five per quintal per season, former WBCSA president S K Tibrewal said.

Furthermore, the WBCSA is in the process of inking a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the West Bengal State Marketing Board for promotion of consumption of potato with necessary financial aid from the National Horticulture Board. He said about 100 billboards would come up at various places in the city and state, in this regard.

UNI SB KK KLC1639

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