Potato sowing in West Bengal has been delayed by over a fortnight this year on account of unfavourable weather conditions.
Sowing, which usually starts by end-October or early November, has just begun, said potato farmers and traders. Sowing usually gets completed by December 15.
“There were untimely rains this year in October and early November. This led to the delay in sowing of the tuber,” said Sahu Sufi Mondal of Abhirampur village near Burdwan – approximately 90 km from Kolkata. Mondal plans to sow Jyoti variety of the tuber on about 8 bighas (2.64 acres) of land. Close to 40 quintals can be cultivated on one bigha of land.
According to Ram Pada Pal, President, West Bengal Cold Storage Association, the delay in harvesting of paddy on account of poor monsoon this year has also led to a delay in sowing of potatoes in the State.
“Though the early varieties of the tuber have been sown in some districts lsuch as Bankura and Howrah, however, the sowing of the major crop is yet to gather steam,” Pal said.
The remunerative prices the tuber fetched this year is encouraging farmers to sow the crop this season despite the increase in input costs.
Potato prices had been on an upward trend since February this year on account of a dip in production. Potato production dropped to about 85 lakh tonne in 2011-12, against 95 lakh tonne last year.
Wholesale price of the tuber was seen fetching anywhere between Rs 950 and Rs 1,250 a quintal during various times of the year.
“Seed and fertiliser prices have more than doubled this year. This is, however, not discouraging farmers from sowing as they are expecting to get good prices this season also,” Pal said.
A farmer spends about Rs 11,000-12,000 to cultivate Jyoti on one bigha (0.33 acre) of land. The costs have gone up by 40-50 per cent this year.
Though it would be difficult to estimate the production of the tuber, however, the sowing of the crop could be almost at par or a little more than that done last year, he said.
Harvesting of potatoes gathers steam by the end of January or early February and is complete by March 15.