The area under potato is likely to increase this year in the district, with the farmers enthused by the prices, Rs. 800-1,200 a quintal, that that the tuber fetched for last year's harvest.
Several farmers that HT spoke to said that they would be sowing the crop to try it out and also as a move towards diversification, though there could be some risk.
"For the first time, I have sown two acres potatoes this year. This is to explore a new option for diversification. Five new farmers have also brought 20 acres under the crop for the first time," said Gurvinder Singh Chahal, a farmer from Jhakkhar Wala village.
For the first timers, seeds will cost between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 13,000 an acre.
"I want to produce my own seed. Basmati-potatoes and moong may be a suitable rotation to come out of the wheat-paddy cycle," said Gurmail Singh, a farmer from Devi Wala village. In his village, potato is being grown on six acres.
"In Hari Naon village, the area under potatoes has increased to 250 acres from 100 acres. The crop has been gaining in popularity," claimed Jagjeet Singh, a farmer from Hari Naon village. Farmers at Kohar Wala also claim that area under potato would rise.
"From the last year's crop, farmers earned between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 1 lakh an acre, depending upon the rates and yield. This is more than double the returns from wheat," said Sukhjinder Singh, a farmer from Dhilwan Kalan village, a potato grower for 18 years.
"I earned about Rs. 80,000 per acre, selling my crop at Rs. 800 per quintal. Those sowing the crops for the first time have to spend Rs. 25,000-30,000 an acre, as they have to buy seed afresh. If the crop sells at about 600 per quintal, only then will they match the earnings from wheat," says Sukhjinder.
Most farmers claim that the area under the crop does not normally increase due to the wide fluctuations in wholesale prices that have come to characterise the crop.
Sukhjinder, for one, has reduced the area under potatoes from 8 acres to 2 acres, seeing the considerable increase in area this year, fearing a crash in prices.
"The area under potatoes in my village this year is around 50 acres," he claimed.
Government agencies are in know of the trend.
"The area under potatoes is increasing due to prices of last year's harvest. We expect the area under the crop in the district to increase by at least 25% this year," said Resham Singh, deputy director horticulture, Faridkot.