Potato prices crash in Punjab third year in a row

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Chandigarh, Jan 25 (PTI) In a major setback to potatogrowers, potato prices have crashed to a lowest level of Rs 2-2.5 per kg in Punjab on account of bumper crop expected thisyear.

Apprehending huge losses to be suffered due to depressedrates, potato growers have urged the Punjab government to helpthem by providing subsidy on freight to soften the hard impactof low rates.

Notably, it was the third year in a row that the pricesof tuber dropped sharply in wake of rich harvest.

According to traders, wholesale potato rates hoveredaround Rs 7-9 per kg in the first week of last December.

Thereafter, it started dipping and reached a level of Rs 3 perkg. "But now as the harvesting has started, the rates haveagain come down to Rs 2-2.5 a kg," they said.

Potato growers have ascribed the steep decline in pricesto bumper crop in Punjab and other key potato growing statesincluding West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

"Even as states like West Bengal, Gujarat and Karnatakabrought down the area under cultivation, the yield of the cropis expected to be better because of weather conditionsremaining conducive for the potato crop during the entireseason, leading to bumper output of potato. As a result of it,the prices have come down sharply," Jalandhar Potato GrowersAssociation, General Secretary, Jaswinder Singh told PTItoday. .

Potato growers pointed out the prevailing rates do not even cover their total cost.

"Our total cost including, input, transportation etcinvolved in potato is worked out at Rs 3 a kg while currentrates are ruling at lower that that," said rued potato grower,who grows crop on his own land.

The problems for big potato growers, who cultivate cropat leased land, are further compounded by the fact that theywere losing out over three per kg on potato crop at currentrates.

"Our break even is at Rs 6 per kg because of large costinvolved in getting land on lease and quality input,"said Confederation of Potato Seed Farmers, President, SukhjitSingh Bhatti said.

Even Punjab Agricultural University in its latestreport has predicted low rate of potato crop at Rs 2.5-3 perkg in next two months.

Seeking intervention of state government, potato growershave demanded introduction of freight subsidy ontransportation of crop for export and other states.

Punjab government in 2009 had announced freight subsidyof Rs 400 per tonne for purposes of marketing of potatoeswithin country and Rs 1,500 per tonne for export.

However, no support was given by state government whenprices went down again in 2010.

Punjab this season grew potato at an area of 84,000hectares and expects output of 22 lakh tonne. Potato is sownin October and its harvesting commences in January, which goeson till end of March or first week of April.

Punjab has almost five to seven per cent share incountry''s total potato production and over 60 per cent ofstate''s potato output is seed potato crop.

Potato is sown at various places in the state includingJalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Moga, Amritsar,Nawanshahar, Bathinda and Phagwara. It mainly grows potatovarieties of Pukhraj, Jyoti, Kufri Chandramukhi, Kufri Baharand Kufri Ashoka.

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