Denied space in cold stores, Doaba potato growers left in the lurch

  • Ravinder Vasudev, Hindustan Times, Jalandhar
  • Updated: Mar 30, 2016 11:15 IST
Labourers sorting potatoes on the outskirts of Jalandhar. (HT File Photo)

The unprecedented rush by potato traders and the cold storage owners to book space in cold storage units in advance has created a mess for the potato growers, who are facing problems in storage of their crop at their own level.

The situation has become difficult for the farmers as they are being compelled to return from the gates of cold storage units after being denied space for storage. Farmers are now moving to other far flung districts in a bid to store their crop at higher rates.

Notably, in this season, the potato growers had started fetching a good price for the crop due to the failure of potato crop in other states.

However, farmers say under pressure from the heavy demand from the rest of the country, the buyers and traders, who buy potato crop in the fields and trade in other states for maximum profit, are pressurising farmers to sell the crop at lower rates.

Jugraj Singh, a farmer from Madar village of Jalandhar, said this year, they sold the crop at a profitable rate of Rs 10-15 per kg. However, at the peak of the season, buyers started pressurising growers to sell the crop at lower rates of Rs 7-8 per kg, which the farmers refused.

“As the traders were aware that with the buyers pressuring farmers to accept lower rates, farmers would store the crop in cold stores, buyers also started advance bookings in cold stores so that farmers could not book sufficient space for their crop. Eyeing good profit from storage of the crop, the cold store owners have also started booking space to store the crop, which they never ever do,” said Prit Pal Singh Dhillon, secretary of Jalandhar Potato Growers Association.

The situation has worsened to such an extent for the farmers that few cold storage units are charging the farmers double the usual storage rate.

Usually, the farmers pay Rs 70 per 50kg per season to store the potato crop but now farmers have booked space for Rs 150 per 50kg per season.

Jaswinder Singh Sangha, general secretary of another potato growers association, said the mad rush for booking space in cold storage units had led to worsening of the situation.

The problem of shortage of space is worst in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala districts.

In a damage control mode after the matter reached the state government, the district administrations have started re-opening of many cold stores that were lying defunct from the last many years because of various reasons such as non-payment of power bill or operating loss.

Davinder Singh Dhariwal, secretary of Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee, told HT that after their delegation took up the matter with Jalandhar deputy commissioner, they were assured about making space available in the existing stores and directions were issued to horticulture and agriculture officials.

“However, results are yet to be seen on the ground as both the departments have failed to push the matter till now. It has come to our knowledge that the government has relaxed norms for those stores that were shut from the last many years. I doubt if these defunct stores would provide better storage facility for the farmers,” said the farmer leader.

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