Chandigarh: Voicing their protest against both the state and Central governments over the fall in the prices of potatoes in the wake of glut crop, farmers have distributed around 500 quintals of potatoes free of cost in Jalandhar. They are planning to intensify the protest, by dumping the crop on the roads and also distributing the tubers free of cost across the state.
While the potato prices hover at `18 per kg in Tamil Nadu and `20 in Gujarat, the farmers in Punjab are forced to sell the crop at the distressed rate of `2 per kg, which was then sold in retail outlets at `7-`10 per kg.
Punjab produced around two lakh tonnes of potatoes but most of the crop is now lying in cold storages across the state because of the huge fall in the prices. This year, potato was cultivated in 90,000 hectare area in the state.
The farmers said they distributed the potatoes free of cost in order to register their protest against the tuber's falling market prices. They also threatened to intensify the protest if the government did not address the issue.
President of Confederation of Potato Seed Farmers, Punjab, Sukhjit Singh Bhatti said, "If the government does not come out to support us as there is glut crop this year, we will have no option but to dump the crop on the roads and also distribute it free of cost across the state, as keeping the corp in cold storages is not a viable option for us."
"We have requested the government to provide us freight subsidy so that we can send the crop to other parts of the country, mainly to the Southern states where it could be sold," he added.
Bhatti pointed out that the potato price was at its highest last year and 4,000 trucks of
potatoes were exported to Pakistan, following which the Centre intervened and banned the export to maintain the demand and supply ratio. This year, Pakistan also reported a decent crop yield.
In February and March, when there was a fall in the potato prices, the state government had assured us of freight subsidy," Bhatti said.
For his part, potato grower Jang Bahadur said, "The government has to find out a permanent solution as every year potato production is going up."
General secretary of Jalandhar Potato Growers Association J S Sangha said the protest was against both the state and Central governments as they had failed to provide the farmers adequate relief whenever there was glut crop. "We are not getting any value for the crop in the market. The government should draw up a plan to export our produce. If it does not do anything about it, we will intensify the protest," he warned.