Agri Business

Potato firms up on steady demand, lower output

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on July 08, 2020 Published on July 08, 2020

Potato prices in West Bengal have firmed up by nearly 16 per cent over the last one month backed by steady demand and lower production of the tuber this year. The wholesale price of potato (the average Jyoti variety), which was ruling at ₹1,800-1,900 a quintal in the first week of June, has gone up to ₹2,200 a quintal at present.

The retail price of the average variety (Jyoti) is ₹28 a kg, ₹3 a kg higher than the ₹25 a kg a fortnight ago. The premium Chandramukhi variety is fetching ₹34-35 a kg (₹28 a kg a fortnight ago).

According to Patit Pavan De, Member, West Bengal Cold Storage Association, while the overall release of potatoes from cold storages up to June end this year is almost at par with last year, offloading, however, was lower in the month of June. This pushed up prices.

Moreover, the State government has been procuring potato for its mid-day meal scheme at a relatively higher price (almost ₹3 a kg higher than its usual procurement price). This has also helped prices to firm up.

“The lower production of potatoes, coupled with a steady demand from government for mid-day meal scheme, has firmed up potato prices in Bengal,” De told BusinessLine.

Potato production in West Bengal has been lower than expected primarily due to the delayed sowing and the unfavourable weather conditions during harvesting. The State, which produces 110-115 lakh tonnes of the tuber each year, is estimated to produce just 85-90 lakh tonnes this year, lower than last year’s production of 92 lakh tonnes.

Panic buying

The loading in cold storages has also been lower as compared to last year, with only 55 lakh tonnes (approximately 79 per cent of the total capacity) of potato making its way to storage units. There are around 400 cold storages in Bengal and they are capable of storing close to 70 lakh tonnes of potatoes.

The total release of potato up to June end is close to 23 per cent, which is at par with last year. Offloading of potato usually begins only around end April or early May and the entire demand for the tuber is met through direct harvest from the fields. However, this year, the lower production and the higher demand from within and outside the State due to panic buying in the wake of Covid lockdown had led to offloading of potato from cold storages in April; 8-10 per cent was released in April.

The West Bengal government, on Tuesday, issued orders to reimpose a complete lockdown across containment zones in Kolkata and across all districts of the State, suspending all activities except essential services, in view of rising number of coronavirus cases.

This is likely to lead to a spurt in demand for the tuber, thereby pushing up prices, a trader said. West Bengal has already been witnessing a spike in demand for potato on the back of reverse migration of workers to the State. This apart, there has been a reasonable demand coming in from Assam, Bihar and Jharkhand.

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Published on July 08, 2020
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