Potato problem of Punjab farmers explained

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Farmers in Punjab have already begun harvesting this year’s Rabi crop including potato. One fourth of the last year’s potato harvest is already present in cold storages of the state. The wholesale rate of the crop is Rs 2.50 to Rs 3.50 per kg which is same as it was last year while the consumers have to pay retail prices of Rs 15 to 20 per kg. This is farmers are crying of being cheated by the milddlemen.

Farmers in Punjab grow two kinds of potato: seed potato and table potato. About 65 percent of the total produce is seed potato and its production cost is also higher and is about Rs 9 perkg. This variety is harvested in in February- March and then kept in cold storages to supply to other states. While the remaining 35 percent is the table variety. According to the farmers, growing of this crop is not viable if they get below Rs 10 per kg, which they are currently getting.

These farmers have to deal with double loss. First, they have to pay the bill of cold stores which is about Rs 22-23 per quintal per month for months. Secondly, they have to dispose this costly seed variety as table in the market to make space for the new crop. This is the reason that since 2007, in the eleven year period, farmers have only seen good/ average years for just seven years. Rest four, including the current year, they have suffered huge loss.

They only way out of this problem as suggested by farmers and experts is the involvement of government by streamlining the wholesale and the retail prices. This would help farmers at least recover their costs if not the profits. The government can also help these farmers deal with the middlemen by encouraging and promoting e-markets. Also, potatoes are in huge demand in Middle East countries and in Russia, the government should facilitate the export of this crop to such countries.

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