Agri Business

Hot potato: As output falls, tuber’s price surges in Bengal

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on May 06, 2019 Published on May 06, 2019

The wholesale price of the common Jyoti variety has more than doubled to ₹1,050 a quintal in the first week of May, against ₹520-530 at March end.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Lower-than-expected production has pushed up potato prices in West Bengal. The wholesale price of the tuber (common Jyoti variety) has more than doubled over the last month to ₹1,050 a quintal in the first week of May, from ₹520-530 a quintal at the end of March.

Wholesale prices were ruling at around ₹950-1,000 a quintal during the same period last year.

Retail prices are currently ruling at around ₹15 a kg, almost 25 per cent higher compared to ₹12 a kg about a month ago.

Potato production in West Bengal is estimated to be around 5 per cent lower, at close to 95 lakh tonnes, this year, as against 100 lakh tonnes in 2018. This is despite the fact that the State had witnessed a three-to-four per cent rise in the sowing area this year and productivity was also up by nearly 15-20 per cent due to favourable climatic conditions. In fact, the industry was expecting a 15 per cent rise in production at around 120 lakh tonnes this year.

“The untimely rains in end-February and early March affected the crop waiting to be harvested. The initial estimate was that production would be close to 120 lakh tonnes, but per current estimates, it is likely to be around 95 lakh tonnes,” Patit Pavan De, past President of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association, told BusinessLine.

Potato cultivation in Bengal is spread across close to 4.6 lakh hectares of land. Hooghly, Burdwan, Bankura and Medinipur are some of the key potato growing districts.

According to De, there is a general shortage of potato all over India this year because of lower production in Bihar and Gujarat. So a “good quantity” of potatoes has been moving to these States, creating steady demand and thereby helping keep prices firm.

Delayed loading

Loading of potatoes, which usually commences by the first week of March, was delayed in most districts this year as a number of cold storages in key growing belts such as Bankura and Medinipur were holding onto last year’s stock till early March.

This was mainly because the traders who had stored their stock did not come forward to offload as prices had crashed. The cold storages usually close down by the end of November for routine maintenance work.

However, despite the delayed loading, close to 60 lakh tonnes of potatoes have been loaded into 400-odd cold storages across the State. This translates into 86 per cent capacity utilisation of cold storages in the State, whose total capacity is around 70 lakh tonnes.

Unlike last year, when farmers sold a majority of their produce at the beginning of the season and a large share of potatoes kept in cold storages belonged to traders, this year nearly 60 per cent of the stocks in cold storages belongs to farmers.

Farmers, who have been affected due to poor prices in the last two years, are hoping prices will improve further this year.

Published on May 06, 2019
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