Tuber up nearly Rs 200/quintal within a fortnight

A steady demand from other States has pushed up potato prices in West Bengal by nearly Rs 200 a quintal in the last fortnight. With the current rise, potato prices in the State have inched up by over Rs 300 a quintal in the last one month.

The wholesale price of the Jyoti variety is ruling around Rs 750-760 a quintal this currently, compared with Rs 550 during March-end and early April.

The demand for Bengal potatoes in Odisha, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra is on the rise, said Patit Paban De, member of West Bengal Cold Storage Association.

No stock

According to De, usually around this time of the year farmers have a reasonable quantity of potatoes with them as stocks after storing the rest in cold storages.

However, this year there is hardly any stock left with them. This is despite the State producing nearly 12 per cent more potatoes at 98 lakh tonnes (lt) this year.

The 400-odd storage units in the State can hold up to 60 lt of potatoes.

Close to 8-10 per cent of potatoes usually remain with farmers post loading into cold storages. However, this year, farmers are left with nearly 12-15 per cent of the stock due to an increased production.

“There has been a good demand for Bengal potatoes in other States as the cost is lower compared with the UP potatoes,” De said.

With the stock with farmers almost on the verge of depletion and with prices increasing to Rs 750 a quintal, it would now be time for cold storages to start unloading their stock.

Stored Potatoes

Unloading from cold storages typically take place during the last week of April or early May.

“This year, in fact, we expected the unloading to begin in the second week of May due to excess production. However, steady demand is leading to depletion of stocks lying with farmers thereby necessitating an early unloading,” De said.

Rental Issue

Though the demand may force cold storages to start unloading their stock, however, it would be difficult for them to do so till the rental issue is resolved, De said.

Faced with almost 50 per cent rise in operation costs, cold storages in the State have been demanding a hike in rentals. The last hike in cold storage rentals took place in 2010.

“Unless there is some headway on the rental issue, it will be difficult for us to start unloading. If unloading does not happen on time then the lack of stock coupled with the high demand could push up prices further,” he pointed out.

shobha.roy@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on April 15, 2013)
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