Agri Business

Potato prices to stay firm due to bulk buying, low production

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on March 31, 2020 Published on March 31, 2020

Delayed harvesting means some crops are still being harvested in Bengal

Potato prices, which have increased by nearly 45 per cent in the last fortnight, are likely to remain firm going forward, on the back of an estimated drop in production and large-scale stocking by consumers in West Bengal.

Prices usually witness a softening trend at the time of harvesting, which typically gets completed by March-end. The arrival of the new crop brings down prices. However, this year has been different.

The wholesale price of potato (Jyoti variety) is currently ruling at around ₹1,600 a quintal, almost 45 per cent higher than ₹1,100 a quintal reported in the second week of March. Retail prices are also ruling firm, with Jyoti fetching close to ₹20-22 a kg (₹16-18 a kg in early March) and the better quality Chandramukhi potato earning ₹25-26 a kg (₹22 a kg).

Low production

Apart from the recent spurt in buying, estimated lower production in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab this year has also led to a higher demand for potatoes in Bengal.

“The moment the lockdown was announced, people bought potato in bulk quantity and stored it as there was fear that they might not get their supplies later. This sent the prices zooming high. Potatoes from our State have also been going into Bihar and Jharkhand, as production in Uttar Pradesh is also estimated to be lower this year. This has pushed up our prices,” said a potato trader.

Prices are likely to stabilise to around ₹1,300-1,500 a quintal in April; in May again, there is expected to be a marginal increase once the potatoes kept in cold storage start arriving into the market, sources said.

Delayed harvesting

Potato harvesting in West Bengal, which is usually complete by the third week of March, is still lagging by around 5-8 per cent. Loading of potatoes into cold storage, which is usually complete by March-end, is also down by around 10 per cent so far this year, on account of labour shortage in the wake of the recent coronavirus outbreak.

Harvesting of potatoes in West Bengal was already delayed by more than a fortnight this year on account of untimely rains. Sowing of the early variety — Pokhraj — which usually begins as early as end-October and the later variety — Jyoti — which begins around the second week of November, was delayed following untimely rains. Hence harvesting, which usually begin by December 20, could only start from January 7 this year.

Delayed sowing and harvesting also impacted the production of the tuber in Bengal. The State, which produces close to 110-115 lakh tonnes of the tuber each year, is estimated to produce close to just 90 lakh tonnes this year. This is even lower than last year’s production of 92 lakh tonnes.

 

According to Patit Pavan De, member, West Bengal Cold Storage Association, over 5 per cent of crop is yet to be harvested, primarily in the districts of Midnapore and Bankura. Potato cultivation in Bengal is spread over close to 4.6 lakh hectares of land. Hooghly, Burdwan, Bankura, East Midnapore and West Midnapore are key growing districts.

“Harvesting is still continuing in the districts of Midnapore and Bankura. Loading in cold storages is around 75-80 per cent this year, as compared to 88-90 per cent same period last year. When this lockdown was announced we were at the peak of loading, there were some initial labour problems and this delayed the loading at some of the cold storage,” De told BusinessLine.

There are around 400 cold storages in Bengal, which are capable of storing close to 70 lakh tonnes of potatoes.

Published on March 31, 2020

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.