India: Optimum potato yield cheers Himachal growers amid pandemic
Una (Himachal Pradesh), May 24 (IANS): Optimum production of potatoes this season has brought cheers on the faces of growers of Una district in Himachal Pradesh as they were apprehensive about its harvesting and marketing owing to the nationwide
Officials with the state Agriculture Department said in the state’s prominent food bowl Una district the potato production during the Rabi season was 13,830 tonnes, a bumper for the second consecutive time.
The potato sowing area was 922 hectares this time, slightly less than 947 hectares in the previous Kharif season. In the previous season, its yield was 14,205 tonnes.
The cash crop potatoes grown in the hill state, twice in a year, sell like hot cakes in the markets of the north Indian states of Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana and Delhi.
"Most of the farmers in the area were initially apprehensive about the marketing of the crop that was bumper this season," Satinder Bains, a prominent potato grower on the outskirts of Una town, told IANS.
He said there was also a shortage of labour as a majority of them migrated to their native places with the nationwide lockdown began on March 25.
"But the state government came to the rescue of farmers by providing timely lockdown passes so that they could sell their produce in the market," Bains added.
Another farmer Karamvir Gill of Amb tehsil said with the transport arrangements also helped marketing of produce in the neighbouring states where the crop commanded comparatively good price.
Agriculture Department Deputy Director Suresh Kapoor told IANS the government had provided Kufri Jyoti potato seed variety to the growers in the Una district and its yield was bumper this season.
He said the farmers are currently getting the price between Rs 1,800 and Rs 2,200 per quintal of potato and it is highly remunerative.
Kapoor said the farmers were in despair about the crop. They feared the crop would rot in the fields owing to the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. The department made special arrangements for its harvesting and marketing.
Over 4,400 curfew passes were issued to the farmers and labourers by the department to harvest their crops and then market it.
He said the department had also made arrangements to provide the masks and hand sanitizers free of cost to the growers and also educated about the social distancing to contain the coronavirus.
Now the department has made preparations for sowing of Kharif crop in the district. For this, it has procured maize, jowar and millet seeds and they will be provided to farmers with 50 per cent subsidy, the official added.
Potato is one of the major cash crops grown in the lower and mid-hills of the state. Una district alone harvests potatoes nearly 900 hectares, besides cultivating wheat on 29,000 hectares.
The production of potatoes in the state was 1.87 lakh tonnes in 2018-19 as against 1.99 lakh tonnes in 2017-18, according to the state Economic Survey for 2019-20.
Besides Una district, the table potato is also cultivated in Bilaspur, Kangra, Mandi, Shimla, Solan and Kullu districts.
The Lahaul Valley in Lahaul-Spiti district is known for producing virus-free potatoes that mainly find a market for plantation.
Currently, potatoes are being retailed at Rs 25-30 per kg in the region.
Himachal Pradesh annually earns Rs 2,500 crore from the cultivation of vegetables, while horticulture generates more than Rs 3,200 crore annually.