Potato growers of Punjab are staring at heavy losses on account of very low prices they are fetching for their produce and urged the state government to extend help in this tough time.
According to growers, they are getting Rs 4-4.50 per kg for the produce as against Rs 17 to 18 per kg received last year. With the farmers being unable to recover their input cost due to low prices, they are storing it in cold storage in anticipation of prices rising in the coming months.
Punjab this season brought 1.14 lakh hectares of area under the tuber crop and registered a bumper output of 31.50 lakh metric tonnes.
Punjab is the largest producer of seed potatoes and supplies the crop to many states including West Bengal, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar, Assam, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. According to farmers, prices have crashed due to a bumper crop in other potato-growing states.
"Rates of potatoes crashed at the start of this season. It is because of bumper crop in potato growing states in the country," rued potato grower Harbans Singh Walia. Walia grows potatoes over 25 to 30 acres of land in Mansoorwal village in Kapurthala district.
He also said there was less demand for potatoes in other states like West Bengal and Gujarat this season. Walia is waiting for traders to buy his crop and till then he has kept it in cold storage.
Potato growers said they are the main sufferers because of the drastic drop in prices and demanded from the state government to fix a minimum price of crop in mandis so the crop should not be sold below that rate which will help growers to recover at least their input cost.
It is the middlemen who are making money, said Jalandhar-based farmer Raghubir Singh. According to growers, a farmer incurs Rs 7 to 8 per kg as input cost on potato crop. They lamented that with the prevailing rates, they were not unable to recover their input cost.
"Our input cost is Rs 7-8 per kg and we are facing 50 per cent losses," said another Jalandhar-based grower J S Sangha. Facing heavy losses in the wake of low prices, potato growers urged the state government to come forward and extend assistance to them.
Kapurthala-based farmer Harbans Walia said, "The state government should offer freight subsidy so growers can sell it in other states. There should be a subsidy on electricity consumed in cold storages." Punjab's Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr are major potato-growing districts in the state.
Early table variety potato crop is harvested in November and December. The harvesting of table and seed potatoes also takes place in February and March in Punjab. Punjab's Pukhraj, Kufri Jyoti and some other varieties of seed potatoes are quite in demand in other states.