Agri Business

Bengal cold storages face shutdown over rent row

| | Updated on: Feb 22, 2011

Nearly 40 lakh potato farmers and crores of consumers may fall victim to a row between the West Bengal Government and over 400 cold storages in the State in the ensuing season.

In response to the State government's indecision over increase in rentals, the cold storages have refused to accept booking for fresh crop.

West Bengal is the second largest potato producing State in the country. The harvesting season begins in February and peaks in March.

25% hike sought

The West Bengal Cold Storage Association (WBCSA), an umbrella organisation, has demanded approximately 25 per cent increase in rentals from the existing Rs 101-109 a quintal.

According to Mr Patit Pawan De, immediate past President of WBCSA, the increased rentals were demanded to make up for the sharp rise in cost of power and labour charges.

“An expert committee set up by the state government itself, also suggested an increase in rentals. However, the state government appears to be insensitive to the cause,” he added.

Meet called

The association has called a general meeting of its members to decide on its future course of action. The association has already written to the Minister of Agriculture Marketing, Mr Mortaza Hossain, over the issue.

According to market sources, if the cold storages do not start operating soon, the farmers may opt for distress sell. In the long run, however, it is the end consumer who may have pay for the supply shortfall.

When contacted, a senior official of the State Agricuture Marketing department admitted the gravity of the situation and promised corrective measures.

Shortage feared

Meanwhile, market sources said the potato output for the season may be affected by the end-season water shortages in several areas.

“In different places across the state shortage of water has affected crop plantation. The expected production this year will be much lower than the government estimates,” said Mr Arup Kumar Ghosh, managing director of a private cold storage.

Last year, the state produced around 95 lakh tonnes of potato. This year the government estimates production to be around 90 lakh tonnes while market sources expect a production of around 75 lakh tonnes.

Published on February 22, 2011

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