Agri Business

Potato prices in Bengal set to soften

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on December 26, 2019 Published on December 26, 2019

Uttar Pradesh is the largest producer of potatoes in the country followed by West Bengal. This file photo shows sorting/grading of the tuber at Kamarkundu in West Bengal’s Hooghly district   -  Business Line

Improved arrivals from UP to temper current uptrend

Potato prices in West Bengal, which have increased nearly 70 per cent over the past month, are likely to inch down over the next week or so, on improved arrivals from Uttar Pradesh.

UP is the largest producer of the tuber in the country followed by West Bengal.

The wholesale price of potato (Jyoti variety) is ruling at around ₹2,200 a quintal, up from ₹1,300 in early November. The retail price is also up at around ₹27 a kg, almost 40-50 per cent higher than in the same period last year.

According to Patit Paban De, former President of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association, the sudden surge in potato prices is mainly due to delayed sowing and harvesting in some of the key growing areas including UP and Punjab.

“Untimely rains in almost all the potato-growing areas of UP, Punjab and West Bengal delayed the sowing and harvesting. The UP crop, which usually comes in by November, has not yet arrived at the market fully, thereby pushing up prices,” De told BusinessLine.

The current situation is in stark contrast to last year, when prices had crashed to near zero and traders and farmers refused to offload potatoes from cold storages, leaving many store houses flush with stock even till as late as February-March 2019. This year, however, much to the relief of store owners, only 1.5-2 lakh tonnes of the tuber are left behind, and this is also likely to be released in the next three-five days on the back of heavy demand.

West Bengal produced 90-95 lakh tonnes of potatoes this year, against around 100 lakh tonnes in 2018. Close to 66 lakh tonnes were stored in the 400-odd cold storages spread across the State this year.

Sowing picks up pace

Though the untimely rains impacted most of the potato-growing belt, sowing is now picking up pace, sources said.

West Bengal, which completes almost 95 per cent of its sowing by this time, is marginally behind and has only covered 90 per cent. There could be a 2-3 per cent shortfall in sowingthis year, De said.

Sowing in UP is lagging by nearly 40 per cent compared to earlier years. Despite the pace of sowing picking up, there might still be a shortfall of around 15 per cent this year. This might, in turn, affect production, which could come down 15-20 per cent unless the yield is phenomenal, said Mahendra Swarup, President, Federation of Cold Storage Association, UP.

The wholesale price of potato in UP is ₹18-20 a kg against the ₹7-8 a kg in a ‘normal’ year. “Prices are at an all-time high. But we expect them to come down once the new crop starts arriving in the market,” Swarup said.

Published on December 26, 2019
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