CHANDIGARH: When it comes to potatoes, Punjab faces a problem of plenty. Unable to sell their produce, angry farmers in the Doaba region have dumped 500 quintals of potato on the road, causing a traffic jam on the Jalandhar-Amritsar National Highway.
“The Punjab government had asked Markfed and National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) to procure the potato crop, but they had failed to do so. So, we dumped about 500 quintals of potatoes on the main chowk in Kartarpur on the Jalandhar-Amritsar National Highway,” said Harmeet Singh Kadian, State president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union.
The trouble began in November when farmers from Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat cancelled their orders for potato seeds from Punjab because demonetisation ensured they could not pay for it.
Usually, Punjab farmers sell around 200 quintals of potato seed at the rate of `3,000 per quintal. This time, the losses are estimated at Rs 1,500 crore. Many farmers, who waited for the prices to stabilise, left their crops standing in the field. But then the new crop came in February, adding to the standing stock and a lot of unsold potatoes already kept in cold storage.
“Post-demonetisation and the coming of the new crop, there has been a crash in potato prices. Now, potatoes are selling at Rs 1.50 to Rs 2 per kg compared to Rs 8 to Rs 10 per kg earlier,” said J S Sangha, Jalandhar Potato Growers Association general secretary.
“Farmers should dump the potato outside banks if the government doesn’t support them in anyway. The crop dumped yesterday was just a trailer. We will dump the whole crop across the State, as storing it in cold storage costs us much more.”
In an attempt to resolve the crisis, the Punjab government is now trying to export the crop to Russia and Iran.