The area under potato in West Bengal, the second-largest producer of the vegetable in the country, has increased 4-5 per cent rise this season (October-March), courtesy a dip in boro paddy acreage.

The increased sowing also seems to have been spurred by the remunerative prices for potato crop last season, sources said.

Incidentally, sowing of the crop was delayed by over a fortnight this year on account of unfavourable weather conditions.

Sowing in the State, which, usually starts end-October, this time around began only in the third week of November this year.

Potato sowing usually gets completed by December 15.

According to Ram Pada Pal, President, West Bengal Cold Storage Association, the cultivation of boro paddy was hit due to lower than expected rains and scanty availability of irrigation water this year.

This encouraged farmers to go for increased potato cultivation this year.

Potato is usually sown on nearly four lakh hectares of land in West Bengal. “There has been about five per cent increase in sowing by farmers due to a drop in boro cultivation this year,” Pal told Business Line.

West Bengal accounts for one-fourth of potato output in the country with Uttar Pradesh, the top producer, making up 35 per cent.

Potato production in the State had dropped to about 85 lakh tonnes in 2011-12, against 95 lt in 2010-11. This in turn helped firm up the wholesale prices of the tuber during the whole of last year.

Wholesale price of the tuber (Jyoti variety) fetched anywhere between Rs 950-1,250 a quintal during various times of 2012.

Production

Though it would be difficult to estimate the production of the tuber, however, if weather conditions were favourable, the production could be slightly higher than last year, said Sukumar Samanta, a potato trader in Singur-Ratanpur area.

Harvesting of potatoes gathers steam by the end of January or early February and is complete by March 15.

As it looks now, the weather conditions are not too favourable as there are some untimely rains and also winter has not been too severe, which are some conditions required for a good crop. In case this kind of weather persists then it can affect the quality and quantity of production,” Samanta said.

Prices

Meanwhile, a good sowing has helped soften prices to some extent. Wholesale price of the tuber (Jyoti variety), was ruling around Rs 750-800 a quintal, down from Rs 950-1,000 a quintal in late December.

shobha.roy@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 4, 2013)
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