With potato prices stabilising around ₹600-700 a quintal across various agricultural markets in the country, growers are now opting to store the spud in cold storages in view of lower returns.
This will result in cold storages running out of space soon, according to industry officials.
“Cold storages in Bengal are full as farmers have opted to store potatoes, expecting to get better prices later on,” said Patit Paban De, forme president of West Bengal Cold Storage Association (WBCSA). “Arrivals have flooded markets in various parts of the country such as Gujarat, Bengal, Punjab, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Most of the arrivals have been diverted to the cold storages,” said Ashish Guru, Senior Vice-President, Federation of Cold Storage Association of India (FCSAI).
While potato modal prices (rates at which most trades take place) in some markets such as Fatehbad in Uttar Pradesh are ruling at ₹550 a quintal — almost flat since last month — rates in other markets of the State are fluctuating between ₹540 and ₹630 depending on the daily arrivals.
In Bengal, the spud prices are ruling between ₹650 and ₹825 a quintal against a minimum support price (MSP) of ₹600 fixed by the State government last month. At retail outlets in Delhi and Mumbai, potato is ruling at ₹15 and ₹30 a kg, respectively, according to Ministry of Consumer Affairs data. “Prices have dropped because the crop in some areas has been affected by scab disease. That’s one of the reasons why they have sought to put their produce in cold storage,” said Guru, who is also Gujarat Cold Storage Association President.
“Cold storages in Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and other growing areas are full,” Paban de said.
Guru said cold storages would brim with potato stocks in a week’s time with stuffing of the spud being carried out currently.
Potatoes affected with the scab diseases appear with black spots or scars. “Housewives do not prefer such potatoes. So, growers are forced to lower the prices,” said the FSCAI Senior Vice-President.
But for the scars and black spots, potatoes affected by scab are safe to eat and their quality remain intact.
On the other hand, production of potatoes that are used for chips, wafers or processing is also high by 50 lakh bags (of 50 kg each), said Guru. “But they have been affected by nematode in some places,” he said.
“Potatoes used for chips and wafers are selling at around ₹1,250 a quintal. Prices are lower by at least ₹2,000 compared with last year,” said Ajay Agrawal, a trader in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
“This year, arrivals are higher as production is higher. In our area, production is at least 25 per cent higher than last year,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, potato production during the current season (July 2020-June 2021) is likely to be a record 53.11 million tonnes (mt) compared with 48.56 mt a year ago.
Production is higher in view of the area under cultivation increasing to 2.25 million hectares (m ha) from 2.05 a year ago.
In 2019, production was lower as the crop was affected by unseasonal rains in the growing areas - of especially Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh- , while farmers also did not show interest in view of low prices then.
Besides, higher consumption of potato, reportedly, due to people remaining at home due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic also resulted in the price spike.
This year, farmers were encouraged by higher prices during September-November to go in for planting of the spud. Potato prices in November ruled between ₹2,750 and ₹2,900 a quintal in major agricultural markets across the country.