Problem of plenty

Doaba farmers have more potatoes than they can sell or store

By Jyotika Sood
Published: Friday 30 April 2010

farmers of the Doaba region in Punjab are worried because they have a bumper potato harvest this year. They are not finding buyers for their produce and there aren’t enough cold storage facilities to store the tuber.

Farmer Aman Singh of Bagpur village in Kapurthala district said potato prices are low this time. “What do you expect us to earn by selling potatoes at Rs 2 a kg?” he asked. Farmers got Rs 4 per kg last year. Singh said many farmers were waiting near cold storages with trolleys full of potatoes in the hope of finding storage space. Over 80 per cent farmers in Doaba region, comprising Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr, are engaged in potato cultivation.

An unseasonably warm March this year (temperatures hovered at 36°C to 37°C) caused the potatoes to mature early. The potato harvest this year was 2.1 million tonnes and the cold storages can accommodate only 1.1 million tonnes. The remaining potatoes are likely to rot in the fields if the government does not intervene, they said.

The Jalandhar Potato Association general secretary, J S Sangha said many private entrepreneurs have created additional cold storage facility for extra 500,000 sacks of potatoes, each weighing 50 kg. “But even these have proved inadequate,” Sangha said. He added it was difficult to send the produce to nearby states as the vegetable may rot on the way owing to hot weather conditions. Punjab’s horticulture director, Lajwinder Singh Brar, said his department cannot help farmers with storage arrangements. Besides, farmers do not want to sell now as prices are low, he said.

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