Bengalí: Falling output not to impact potato prices in Bengal
The near nine per cent drop in potato production in 2018 is unlikely to have an impact on prices of the tuber due to carry over stock of close to 9 lakh tonnes (lt) from last year.
Potato production is likely to be lower at close to 100 lt in 2018, down from last year’s bumper harvest of 110 lt.
According to Patit Paban De, President of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association, there has been a dip in area under cultivation of potato this year as farmers were disincentivised by unremunerative prices last year.
Potato cultivation in Bengal is spread across close to 4.6 lakh hectares of land. Hooghly, Burdwan, Bankura and Medinipur are some of the key growing districts. The area under cultivation is likely to be lower by five per cent (or around 4.4 lakh hectares) this season.
“Though the production will be marginally lower this year but it will be offset due to the carry over stock from last year which will be available in the market till mid February,” he told newspersons on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of the cold storage association here on Tuesday.
Another reason for a drop in production this year could be attributed to delayed sowing of the tuber on account of late harvesting of kharif paddy due to post monsoon showers. This (delayed sowing) is likely to impact the productivity of the crop this season.
“While close to 65 per cent of the crop was timely sown; the remaining (around 35 per cent) suffered from delayed sowing. This could have an impact on production,” he said.
Sowing of potato usually begins by end-October and goes on till early December.
The new crop begins to arrive by early January. However, this year, the new crop is likely to hit the market in mid-February.
Problem of plenty
In 2017, West Bengal reported a 22 per cent rise in potato output at 110 lt leading to a price crash.
Wholesale prices, at the time of harvesting, were ruling as low as ₹110-120 for a packet of 50-kg or around ₹2.4 a kg.
According to De, the State government should take initiatives to encourage cultivation of export quality potato and processing variety potato through contract farming to overcome the crisis caused due to excess production.
The monthly consumption of potato in the State is close to 5 lt and another 2-3 lt can be transported to other States each month. This takes the total annual consumption to around 96 lt and another 4-5 lt can be used as seeds for sowing.
“If production exceeds 100 lakh tonne it could lead to a crisis; there is a need to encourage cultivation of export quality potato and processing variety to overcome the crisis,” he said.