BHUBANESWAR: The progress report of the Agriculture Department is conspicuously silent on the much-hyped State Potato Mission which was launched in 2014-15 with a promise to achieve self sufficiency in potato production by 2017-18.
The State Government had set a target to increase the area for potato cultivation from 15,000 hectares (ha) in 2014-15 to 60,000 ha over a three-year period to achieve production of 11.25 lakh tonnes by 2017-18.
The area expansion proposed under the mission for kharif and rabi seasons was 30,000 ha for 2015-16, 45,000 ha for 2016-17 and 60,000 ha for 2017-18. However, sources in Horticulture Department said the area under potato cultivation in 2017-18 was 22,000 ha with a production of about 3.2 lakh tonne.
As farmers were not keen to go for potato production on a commercial scale due to lack of storage facility, the task force constituted by the State Government had recommended creation of an additional storage capacity of over 7 lakh tonne to accommodate the targeted production of 11.25 lakh tonne of potato and about 1,42,500 tonne seed potato by the end of mission period.
With a storage capacity of 1,17,280 tonne in 2014, the State has added capacity of only 85,200 tonne taking the total capacity to 2.12 lakh tonne during the last five years. Only 19 new cold stores have been completed in the private sector against a target of 112, the progress report said.
A highly perishable commodity, around 40 per cent of the potato production was damaged due to poor handling and storage. The Department claimed to have launched a special programme for augmentation of production, processing and marketing of tomato, onion and potato during the current financial year.
In order to boost potato production, the task force had recommended the State Government to provide incentives to farmers for cultivating potato in cluster areas. The incentive would be available for using seeds from approved seed supplying agencies technically approved by Director of Horticulture. The rate of incentive was proposed to be reduced in a phased manner from `40,000 per ha in 2014-15 to `15,000 per ha during 2017-18.
Though farmers took up potato cultivation in clusters in 2016-17, they had to run from pillar to post to get their incentives. As a result, the cluster cultivation fell flat.