The potato bomb has exploded in the face of Punjab farmers once again—another year when they are unable to get acceptable prices for their produce.
Farmers in Punjab say that after spending Rs 7 to produce a kilo of potatoes, all they get back is Rs 2.50 per kg for fresh potato meant for immediate fresh consumption.
The situation is reportedly even worse for cold storage owners who complain that they still have stock left from the last season. Retailers, however, are selling the tuber to consumers at Rs 10-30 a kg across the country.
Sources say in many places farmers have ploughed potatoes back into fields; and many have dumped their produce along road,s while some use it as cattle fodder. For the fourth straight year potato prices have crashed here.
A key reason for the continuing plight of potato producers is said to be the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation drive, which kicked off on November 8, 2016—right before the potato harvest. Potato seed could not be transported to other states due to the lack of cash to pay truckers and a cycle of misery kicked in for farmers in the potato belt of Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Moga districts and even Una in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.
Punjab’s harvest for fresh sales precedes those of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat by around 20 days. Farmers are now trying to sell most of their produce for instant consumption, avoiding cold storages as they do not see viable returns in storing seed.
Normally though, they stored almost three-quarters of their harvest: Punjab produces approximately 25 lakh tonne potatoes every year—18 lakh tonne for cold storage and 7 lakh tonnes for consumption.
The Doaba region, the best suited for potato production, reportedly supplies about 1.1 metric tonne potato seed to states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and other potato producing states. This meets about 63 per cent of the country’s requirement for the seed.