BALASORE: The much-hyped Potato Mission seems to have fallen flat in the State. Farmers are hardly showing any interest in tuber farming due to lack of patronage from the Agriculture department, non-availability of storage facilities and market linkage.
In Balasore district, potato was cultivated in 900 acres and the production was 4,950 tonnes. The farmers, though, suffered from huge loss as Government did not purchase their stock and they could not even store the produce.
Surendra Behera, a farmer from Basta, said a major chunk of his stock rot and he had to bury them. Even as environment and soil type of the district is favourable for potato cultivation, he said farmers do want want to get into tuber farming.
This year, the tuber has been grown in only 321 acres.
Agriculture experts said potato can be cultivated in at least 1,600 hectares (ha) in the district but Agriculture department is yet to take up Potato Mission in an extensive manner. The mission is being implemented by the Government from the last fiscal to make Odisha self-sufficient in tuber production. The Government envisaged to increase tuber output to 1.12 million tonnes from 60,000 ha in the State by 2017-18.
Non-availability of storage facilities is a major hurdle for farmers. While the State had set a target to harvest 4.5 lakh tonnes potato from 22,000 ha last year, the yield was around 2.74 lakh tonnes. Though this season, the target initially was set to cultivate potato in 30,000 ha, it was slashed to 22,000 ha due to lack of cold storages.
The Agriculture department had decided to build 112 new cold storages in three years in the State, of which 82 were to be sanctioned under the State Plan. In the first phase, 35 cold storages were to be built in 29 districts except Bhadrak under the Potato Mission. Though two each having a capacity of 5,000 MT were to be set up in Balasore, Kandhamal, Koraput and Mayurbhanj districts, no work has been initiated for any cold storages in Balasore district.
Deputy Director of Horticulture Om Prakash Rath said though this year the target was set to cultivate potato in 1,000 acres, farmers did not come forward for it as they suffered loss last year. This time, the subsidy has been reduced to `30,000 from `40,000 per hectare. “Steps are being taken to establish two cold storages in the district and we hope the storage problem will be solved by next year,” he added.