No demand, potato area slashed by 15%
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Three bumper crops in a row coupled with lack of cold storages has resulted in potato crop — which was dumped on the roadsides last year as there was no demand — being cultivated in around 15 per cent less area this year in Punjab.
The crop is being cultivated in around 12,000 to 13,000 hectares (30,000 to 32,000 acres) less area when compared to the previous years. Doaba region, where potato is primarily grown, has dedicated around 85,000 hectares to the crop in four districts. The cultivation area saw a decrease of around 15 per cent due to overproduction and no demand in the last three seasons.
"I have been growing potato for several years now on my land of four acres. But the last three seasons has led to huge debt, as there were hardly any buyers. I could not even recover the production cost. This season, I have gone for wheat and sugarcane cultivation," said Narinder Singh, a farmer from Kapurthala.
When contacted, Jaswinder Singh Sangha, general secretary of Jalandhar Potato Growers Association (JPGA), said: "In the last three seasons, not only have small and marginal farmers faced huge losses by growing potato but big farmers have incurred debts as well. So, this year, while small farmers have shifted to crops like sugarcane and wheat, big farmers had decreased the crop area under potato cultivation. Small farmers can neither store their crop in the cold stores due to high charges nor can they transport it to other states because of high transportation charges."
"The production cost of potato has also increased with hike in rates of fertilisers. As per our calculations, while Rs 64,000 is spent per acre to grow potato, but owing to fluctuating wholesale rates, farmers can fetch between Rs 40,000 to Rs 70,000 per acre," said Sangha. He added that while in the beginning of this harvesting season, a farmer was getting Rs 900 to Rs 1,000 per quintal wholesale rate, in the middle and last phase, the rates crashed to Rs 500 to 550 per quintal. On an average, 80 quintals yield is harvested in an acre.
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