As there is a glut of potato in the market, only farmers seem to be at the losing end. Farmers are forced to sell potato at around Rs 2 per kg, but consumers have been paying Rs 10 per kg for potatoes in the market. In this way, the middlemen are making more than the farmers.
The huge difference of Rs 8 per kg has been only exposing the poor policies of the state and central government towards farmers.
The Punjab government is encouraging farmers to adopt crop diversification to replace the wheat-paddy pattern and the potato crop is a major alternative to wheat, but right now, potato farming is turning a losing proposition for farmers.
Potatoes were sold on Friday at the rate of Rs 80 to Rs 110 per 50 kg bag in the Bathinda market by farmers to commission agents and retailers. Besides, the price of potato for the consumer is still Rs 8 to Rs 10 per kg. Harsimran Singh, a wholesale vegetable merchant, said that potato price rose on Friday, it had been sold only at Rs 38-40 per bag a few days earlier.
The area under the crop and yield of the crop has increased here. The area increased to 6,000 hectares this year from 5,700 hectares during the last year and the yield has increased from 85-85 quintals to 113-120 quintals per acre.
In Bathinda district, potatoes have been sown mainly in Rampura Phul and Goniana area. Farmers of these areas are complaining for low rates and lack of governmental subsidies and marketing policies.
Gurcharan Singh, a potato farmer, said that he has been growing potato crop for the last twenty years, but now he is thinking to go back to the traditional paddy-wheat crops. He said, "We had spent more than Rs 30,000 per acre on the crop and now we getting only Rs 18000 to Rs 25,000 per acre. How can we survive with this?"
Buta Singh of Nahiya Wala village said, "No cold store is free in the district to keep potatoes, as the wholesalers had booked the stores in advance. Cold store owners are demanding higher charges for storage. We are helpless to send our product to farther cities for storage. Merchants are robbing us."
In the market, 10% commission is charged from sellers, and the market fee is extra. The retail merchants are selling potatoes at the rate of Rs 8-10 per kg.
The government did not fix any minimum support price (MSP) for the purchase of potato crop and no government agency bys the crop. Thus, farmers are facing huge economic losses, especially who produced potato crop for the first time.