Bumper potato harvest but poor prices haunt farmers

‘In absence of government support to farmers, the volume of potato cultivation would drop drastically in the region’

KORAPUT: Koraput farmers are sitting on a bumper potato crop but there are few takers for their harvest this season. Little market linkage and absence of storage facility is prompting the growers to sell off their crop at throwaway prices.

Over 4,000 farmers had opted for potato cultivation during kharif season this year after being encouraged by the Horticulture department and NGOs working in agriculture sector considering the favourable weather condition of the region. As expected, they reaped a bumper harvest but with procurement prices plunging, they are now left in despair. Farmers in Koraput usually cultivate potato in rabi season.

Khagapati Hantal, a farmer of Semiliguda, said he sold the crop at Rs 30 per kg last year and buoyed by the remunerative prices, he and other farmers took to potato again this year. But to their disappointment, they are now unable to find enough traders to sell their crop. Those who turn up are offering Rs 10 per kg of potato.

“Since there are no storage facilities in Semiliguda, we are forced to sell our potato crop at throwaway prices,” he rued. Sources said, the lone government cold storage at Semiliguda is lying defunct.Another farmer Harihar Dalei of Daleiguda village had purchased seeds at Rs 10 per kg. Now, he is selling his yield at the same price. “All hopes of making any profit have been dashed. I have decided not to go for potato farming again,” he said.

Secretary of Koraput Farmers’ Association Sarat Patnaik said, farmers took up potato cultivation on an experimental basis in the kharif season last year with support from International Potato Center (CIP). Around 50 quintal of Kufri Jyoti potato seeds from Punjab were supplied to farmers of three blocks. The yield too was good as farmers reaped a harvest of 300 quintal. “This year, farmers are being denied a fair price due to lack of market linkage. The government should extend support to farmers, else the volume of potato cultivation would drop drastically in the region from the next season,” he added.

Odisha head of CIP Sahid Ali said two potato-laden trucks have been sent to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on a trial basis to analyse feasibility and acceptance in the markets there. “Once the traders give their approval, potato farmers of Koraput would be linked up for sale of their produce,” he added.

Deputy director of horticulture Sarbeswar Bagudia said around 3,75,000 quintal of seeds were distributed to 4,000 farmers across the district at a subsidised price of Rs 10 per kg. In most areas, farmers have reaped six times the normal yield. There are only four private cold stores in the district each having a storage capacity of 5,000 tonne.“Steps are being taken for tie-up with owners of the private cold stores for preserving maximum quantity of potatoes,” he added.

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The New Indian Express