India: Potato cultivation dips in Northern India
Usually potato growers are rooted to its cultivation and are not swayed by volatility in price. “But in the few years wholesale potato prices have remained subdued despite higher retail prices.
Despite higher retail price of potato, the sowing of tuber is set to shrink in Northern states as farmers prefer alternate crops including onion, garlic, sugarcane and other perishables in this Rabi season. The rising gap between retail and wholesale price in recent years in India, second largest producer of potato, is dissuading big growers from cultivation of potato in states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.
“In the last few years the gap between wholesale and retail price of potato has widened by two-three times. It has disenchanted potato growers and many are shifting to other crops. Mostly big farmers who store their produce have incurred losses in potato business and many such farmers are shifting from cultivation of tuber,” Arvind Aggarwal, president, Cold Storage Associations of Uttar Pradesh said.
In Uttar Pradesh, leading growers of potato, farmers have replaced tuber with crops like garlic, onion, mustard etc. “Around Mainpur district more garlic is being grown whereas Agra has seen increase in mustard area,” a senior official of Uttar Pradesh agriculture department said. In central part of the state sugarcane is gaining acreage in areas known for potato cultivation.
Usually potato growers are rooted to its cultivation and are not swayed by volatility in price. “But in the few years wholesale potato prices have remained subdued despite higher retail prices. There is little comprehensible function between the retail and wholesale prices,” Kuljeet Sidhu, a Jallandar based potato growers said.
In the last three years, glut in potato production has caused unrest among farmers in North. The annual output has grown to 53 million tonnes in 2018-19 compared to 51 million tonnes in 2017-18. The increase in area of potato cultivation has squeezed margins for growers as well as traders in the region.
“It is mostly new famers who are withdrawing from potato cultivation,”GS Gill, joint director, Punjab Horticulture Department said.
“The wholesale price of potato has prevailed below Rs 7-8 per kilogram in the current year and those who had stored the crop has recorded losses,” Gurinder Singh Kang, Punjab based Potato trader and owner of cold store said. He said that wholesale price were below Rs 8 for most part of the year and had Export of tuber from India has buttressed the potato business in states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
The potato export has shown much potential to Middle East and Sri Lana in the last few years. “There is little financial viability in export of potato from Northern states due to logistic costs and competition from Bangladesh,” Aggrawal said.