ROURKELA: Even as Sundargarh has huge potential in cultivation of vegetables, it continues to be the victim of artificial shortage and price rise.
Seven cold storage chambers with a combined capacity of 65 tonnes in Nuagaon and Bisra blocks are lying unutilised in the absence of power supply. Two other Government owned cold storage units, having a combined capacity of 2000 tonnes, are been lying defunct for the last 25 years.
Nuagaon block has been a leading producer of vegetables, but this does not provide any relief to the poor farmers here or people of the district.
Horticulture wing of Agriculture Department and the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Panposh, last year had installed five cold chambers with collective capacity of 45 tonnes in Nuagaon and recently, two more cold chambers with total capacity of 20 tonnes were set up in Bisra.
Assistant Director of Horticulture, SP Nayak, said trial run of the cold chambers was successfully done and power supply is awaited to make them functional.
Panposh ITDA Project Administrator, Manoranjan Nayak, said applications to install separate transformers for the cold storage facilities are pending with the power distribution company, Wesco. As a result, four newly set up packing houses in Nuagaon are lying idle and plan to set up six more such facilities have been dropped.
The commercial hub of Rourkela and its suburbs have six lakh population, which offers a large market. Farmers lamented that amid lack of logistical support including lack of cold storage facilities, the district has failed to become a vegetables production and processing hub.
Problems started in 1989 when a 1500 tonne capacity cold storage at Jamunakhatiguda in Kuanrmunda block of Panposh sub-division was closed down.
Located along NH-143, the facility was commissioned in 1968, but was made operational in 1972. The Agriculture Department used it from 1972 to 1982. Subsequently, Horticulture wing took charge but in 1989, it was closed down completely.
Deputy Director of Horticulture, Basudev Sahu, said a proposal placed seven months back to run this facility on PPP mode evoked no response and they are exploring new ways.
It was designed to store vegetables, fish and potatoes.
Another cold storage set up in 1960s by the Regional Cooperative Marketing Society (RCMS) along NH-520 at Rajamunda in Bonai sub-division, faced similar fate. It had the capacity of 500 tonne.
Now, only the dilapidated building structure stands amidst ruins as machines and equipment were auctioned in early 2000. A senior officer in Cooperative Department said it requires fresh investment of `3 crore and a proposal to run it on PPP mode failed.
Sundargarh Collector, Bhupendra Singh Poonia, said the new cold storage facilities will be operationalised shortly.