After witnessing a slump for two successive years, potato prices in West Bengal have firmed up by nearly 51 per cent since the beginning of this month. The wholesale price of the tuber (Jyoti variety) is currently ruling at around ₹520-530 a quintal, as compared with ₹350 a quintal in the first week of March.

The rise in prices is primarily on the back of a drop in production due to untimely rains at the end of February and early in March.

The State had witnessed a 3-4 per cent rise in sowing acreage this year and productivity was also up nearly 15-20 per cent due to favourable climatic conditions (at the time of sowing). This was expected to translate into a 15 per cent rise in production, at around 120 lakh tonnes, this year.

“The untimely rains affected the crop, which was waiting to be harvested. The initial estimate was that production would be close to 120 lakh tonnes, but as things stand now, it looks like we will have close to 105 lakh tonnes of potatoes, which is only marginally higher compared to the 100 lakh tonnes produced last year,” Patit Pavan De, past President of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association, told BusinessLine.

Potato cultivation in Bengal is spread over close to 4.6 lakh hectares of land. Hooghly, Burdwan, Bankura and Medinipur are key potato growing districts.

According to De, a “good quantity” of potatoes has been moving to neighbouring states of Bihar and Jharkhand. The steady demand will help keep prices firm.

State procurement

The West Bengal government had planned to procure close to 10 lakh tonnes of potatoes from farmers at a pre-fixed price of ₹550 a quintal. This was done to offset some of the excess stock, after initial estimates of over-production. The procurement, which commenced in the first week of March, was to go on till March 17.

“There was some documentation and paperwork required to be done for opening of bank accounts so the process of procurement was rather slow. It slowed down further due to the ongoing election preparations. So, the State could not achieve its targeted procurement within the stipulated period,” De said.

However, with the Model Code of Conduct being implemented, the state government had written to the Election Commission of India seeking an extension in timeline (beyond March 17). Though there is still no news of an extension being granted, prices have already started showing signs of firming in anticipation of procurement.

Farmers relieved

The improvement in prices comes as a relief to farmers, who have been affected by poor prices over the last two years.

In 2017, excess production sent prices spiralling to lows of ₹220-240 a quintal at the beginning of the harvesting season in January-February.

In 2018, though production was down by nearly 9 per cent as compared to the year ago period, farmers and traders were holding on to stock in anticipation of prices firming up.

They had loaded additional quantities of the tuber into cold storages expecting to offload them as and when prices improved. However, instead of firming up, prices started going down.

up by nearly 51 per cent since the beginning of this month. The wholesale price of the tuber (Jyoti variety) is currently ruling at around ₹520-530 a quintal, as compared with ₹350 a quintal in the first week of March.

The rise in prices is primarily on the back of a drop in production due to untimely rains at the end of February and early in March.

The State had witnessed a 3-4 per cent rise in sowing acreage this year and productivity was also up nearly 15-20 per cent due to favourable climatic conditions (at the time of sowing). This was expected to translate into a 15 per cent rise in production, at around 120 lakh tonnes, this year.

“The untimely rains affected the crop, which was waiting to be harvested. The initial estimate was that production would be close to 120 lakh tonnes, but as things stand now, it looks like we will have close to 105 lakh tonnes of potatoes, which is only marginally higher compared to the 100 lakh tonnes produced last year,” Patit Pavan De, past President of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association, told BusinessLine.

Potato cultivation in Bengal is spread over close to 4.6 lakh hectares of land. Hooghly, Burdwan, Bankura and Medinipur are key potato growing districts.

According to De, a “good quantity” of potatoes has been moving to neighbouring states of Bihar and Jharkhand. The steady demand will help keep prices firm.

State procurement

The West Bengal government had planned to procure close to 10 lakh tonnes of potatoes from farmers at a pre-fixed price of ₹550 a quintal. This was done to offset some of the excess stock, after initial estimates of over-production. The procurement, which commenced in the first week of March, was to go on till March 17.

“There was some documentation and paperwork required to be done for opening of bank accounts so the process of procurement was rather slow. It slowed down further due to the ongoing election preparations. So, the State could not achieve its targeted procurement within the stipulated period,” De said.

However, with the Model Code of Conduct being implemented, the state government had written to the Election Commission of India seeking an extension in timeline (beyond March 17). Though there is still no news of an extension being granted, prices have already started showing signs of firming in anticipation of procurement.

Farmers relieved

The improvement in prices comes as a relief to farmers, who have been affected by poor prices over the last two years.

In 2017, excess production sent prices spiralling to lows of ₹220-240 a quintal at the beginning of the harvesting season in January-February.

In 2018, though production was down by nearly 9 per cent as compared to the year ago period, farmers and traders were holding on to stock in anticipation of prices firming up.

They had loaded additional quantities of the tuber into cold storages expecting to offload them as and when prices improved. However, instead of firming up, prices started going down.

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