Agri Business

Potatoes in Bengal cold storages in peril as tuber from Punjab floods the market

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on December 12, 2011

potato

Close to five lakh tonne of potatoes kept in the cold storages across West Bengal will soon turn unfit for consumption if the state government does not step in to curb the entry of new potatoes from Punjab, according to senior officials in West Bengal Cold Storage Association.

The State – which is already grappling with bumper production, lower consumption and the steady fall in prices of the tuber – is further disincentivised with the arrival of potatoes from Punjab, said Mr Patit Paban De, past president, West Bengal Cold Storage Association.

“Already two rakes (one rake contains 20,000 quintal) of potatoes have arrived from Punjab and two more rakes are getting loaded. Although the Punjab potatoes costs double of those produced in the state, people prefer the new crop. This will bring down the demand for our own produce,” Mr De told newspersons on the sidelines of the 47{+t}{+h} annual general meeting of the association here on Monday.

The Punjab crop is priced at around Rs 600 a quintal while Bengal potatoes are sold at Rs 300-350 a quintal.

Bumper crop

West Bengal which had a bumper crop this year produced about 95 lakh tonne of potatoes. Close to 58 lakh tonne was stored across the 403 odd cold storages in the state. The wholesale price of the tuber - which was ruling around Rs 580 a quintal in August this year - dropped to Rs 300-350 a quintal in December.

Typically, potatoes find their way out of these cold storages by the end of November and the storage house is cleared and kept closed for maintenance between early December and mid February.

The state government had extended the deadline for storage of potato till December 15 in order to help release the entire quantity of produce.

“Roughly 10 per cent of the total potatoes stored amounting to about 6 lakh tonne are still lying with the cold storages due to higher production and relatively lower consumption this year. We do not expect more than 2 per cent of the potatoes to be released from the storage over the next three days,” a senior official said.

Shelf life

The shelf life of these potatoes at cold storage is typically nine months. “The state government is believed to be considering further extension in the deadline (for storing potatoes in cold storage). Any further extension might lead to large scale rotting of the tuber,” Mr Swapan Kumar Mondal, president of the association said.

Meanwhile, to enhance consumption of potatoes, the West Bengal government has announced Rs 10 crore subsidy on export of potato. The state government would offer export subsidy of Rs 2 a kg for transport by non-refrigerated vans and Rs 3 a kg for refrigerated vans, Mr Arup Roy, agriculture marketing minister said.

Published on December 12, 2011

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