Potato farmers in India are facing a pricing crisis, and a number of factors are contributing to it, reports the Business Standard.
“When I had forayed into the cold storage business in 1998, the retail price of potato in Uttar Pradesh was around Rs 20 a kg. These are still around the same level and sometimes lower,” says Agra-based Rajesh Goyal, acting president of the Federation of Cold Storage Associations of India.
In these 20 years, he adds, farm input costs for potato have doubled from Rs 3 a kg to Rs 7-8 a kg.
Potato sees record production year after year, but farmers do not see the benefit of this. The export market is bleak, due to unsuitable domestic varieties and an underdeveloped food processing value chain. Farmers willing to store more in cold storages find no space available.
The price at Agra’s wholesale market has been Rs 5-6 a kg since January 2017, except for the April to November period when it is Rs 10-15. Since 2005, it is only in November 2014 that wholesale prices have gone above Rs 20 a kilo.
The central government’s minimum support price (MSP) is Rs 5.5 a kg in UP and Bengal, the top two producers. This, farmers say, does not cover even the production cost. The cold storage levy is Rs 2.5 a kg. Many a time, farmers do not bother to even come to a cold storage to take delivery of their commodity, since the transport cost would be steeper than what the produce would fetch in the wholesale market (mandi).
In 2018-19, production was estimated at 52 million tonnes (mt) and consumption at 32 mt. The current season is again expected to see over-production. Prices apart, the storage facilities are already full, say growers.