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Big Trouble for Farmers; Soon Potato Cold Storages Could Run Out of Space

With potato prices stabilising about $600-700 per quintal in various agricultural markets across the region, growers are now opting to store the spud in cold storages due to lower returns.

Prity Barman
Cold Storage
Cold Storage

With potato prices reaching about Rs. 600-700 per quintal in various agricultural markets across India, farmers are now opting to store the spud in cold storages due to lower returns. 

According to officials, this would result in colder storages fast running out of space. 'Farmers have chosen to store varieties of potatoes in cold storages in Bengal in the hope of better prices later,' said Patit Paban De, former president of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association (WBCSA). 'Arrivals have flooded markets in Gujarat, Bengal, Punjab, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, among other states.  

The bulk of the arrivals were redirected to cold storages, according to Ashish Guru, Senior Vice-President of the Federation of Cold Storage Association of India (FCSAI). Though potato modal prices (the prices at which most trades take place) in some markets, such as Fatehbad in Uttar Pradesh, are hovering around 550 per quintal — virtually unchanged since last month — charges in other markets across the state range from 540 to 630 per quintal, depending on daily arrivals. 

In Bengal, spud prices are ranging from 650 to 825 per quintal, compared to a minimum support price (MSP) of 600 set by the state government last month.  

According to Ministry of Consumer Affairs numbers, potato is selling for Rs 15 and Rs. 30 per kilogramme in Delhi and Mumbai, respectively. 'Prices have fallen as a result of scab disease, which has impacted the crop in some regions. That is one of the reasons they have tried to store their produce in cold storage,' said Guru, who is also the President of the Gujarat Cold Storage Association. 

Cold storage facilities in Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and other growing areas are at capacity,' Paban de said. 

Guru estimated that in a week's time, cold storages will be brimming with potato shares, with spud stuffing already underway. 

Potatoes infected with diseases called scab disease generates black skin or stains on potatoes. These potatoes are hated by housewives. As a result, farmers are being pushed to lower their prices,' the FSCAI Senior Vice-President explained. 

Scab-affected potatoes, on the other hand, are safe to eat and retain their high quality despite the scars and black spots. 

On the other side, Guru claimed that the production of potatoes used for chips, wafers, or processing could increase by 50 lakh bags (each weighing 50 kg). They have, however, been infected by nematode in some locations, he said. 

Potatoes for chips and wafers are now selling for around $1,250 per quintal. According to Ajay Agrawal, a dealer in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, prices have fallen by at least 2,000 rupees since last year. 

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, potato production is expected to reach a new high of 53.11 million tonnes (mt) this season (July 2020-June 2021), up from 48.56 mt the previous year. 

Since the area under cultivation has grown to 2.25 million hectares (m ha) from 2.05 million hectares (m ha) in the previous year, production has increased. In 2019, production was lower due to unseasonal rains in the growing areas – especially Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh – and farmers' lack of interest due to low prices. 

Increased potato intake, allegedly due to people staying at home due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic, also contributed to the price surge. 

Farmers have been motivated to plant spuds this year because of higher prices from September to November. In November, potato prices in major agricultural markets around the world dominated between $2,750 and $2,900 per quintal. 

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