On the opening day of the India International Potato Expo here on Thursday, Dr BP Singh, director, Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla, said potato played an important role in the nutritional security of the country.
“The challenge of food security is over, with abundant wheat and rice being grown in the country, but it is not providing nutritional security. We have to depend on potatoes to give proper nutrition to the country,” Dr Singh added. According to him, consumption of potatoes doesn’t lead to obesity.
About the contribution of the tuber crop to the economy, he said potatoes alone contributed four times more than wheat and rice to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). The potato production has grown from 1.5 million tonnes in 1949 to 40 million tonnes in 2008. “By 2050, we want the production to reach more than 200 million tonnes, which is possible with research,” he said.
The Indian representative of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Association, Kevin D Gallagher, said various studies had proved that potato was a complete food. According to him, potato is grown in 134 countries.
About the difficulties faced by potato growers in Punjab, principal secretary (agriculture) Suresh Kumar said there were issues of storage, seeds not being available, and an unstable market.
Kumar said Punjab contributed 75% of the nation’s potato seed requirement because the climate was most suitable for the crop in the state, but due to lack of certification, seeds fetched less remuneration. He also announced the setting up of a potato excellence centre in Jalandhar. “Only 7-8% of the total area in Punjab is under vegetable production. Potato accounts for 56% of it,” added Kumar.
Kumar also raised issues concerning agriculture of the state, such as soil fertility, falling groundwater table, and shifting of the water table to the south-western direction. According to him, in an effort to grow more wheat and paddy, the state has lost its biodiversity.