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.

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Published on March 31, 2020
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