Way out of demand dip: Iran, Russia come to rescue of potato growers in Punjab
For the first time, Iranians and Russians will consume potatoes from Punjab’s farmlands. The state agriculture department and Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAIC) are working out modalities for exporting the crop to the two countries.punjab Updated: Mar 01, 2017 10:48 IST
For the first time, Iranians and Russians will consume potatoes from Punjab’s farmlands. The state agriculture department and Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAIC) are working out modalities for exporting the crop to the two countries.
As supply of potato from Pakistan’s Punjab province in the current season will end by March 15, the Indian side is gearing up to export consignments. The state agencies woke up to the farmers’ plight after they complained of earning less than the input cost and fleecing by traders. A bag of 50-kilogram potatoes is selling for just Rs 80 to Rs 100.
“We have orders to supply 2,800-tonne potatoes to Russia and 5,000 tonne to Iran. Modalities are being worked out to start the export,” said PAIC managing director KS Pannu.
Financial commissioner, development, NS Kalsi, who is in charge of the agriculture department, said the landing cost of potato in the two countries will be Rs 18 per kilogram, while it will sell for Rs 50 to Rs 60 per kilogram.
“The profit will be passed on to the farmers. The corporation has sought Rs 5-crore financial help from the government to start lifting the produce from farmers,” he said.
Bharatiya Kisan Union president Balbir Singh Rajewal said area under potato has been expanding and this season an alltime high of one lakh hectare was under potato cultivation, with 25-lakh tonne production expected.
Last season, the area under potato cultivation stood at 70,000-80,000 hectares.
“Although the quantum of export is negligible as compared to the total production, it will give a fillip to the trade,” he said.
He, however, questioned the delay in listening to the farmers, who had to bear heavy losses, and suggested export of the produce should be made a regular exercise.
Jalandhar potato growers’ association general secretary Jaswinder Singh Sangha said big growers have offered their produce for export for free and the income generated by the corporation could be passed on to farmers after recovery of payments from the foreign buyers. “To help small farmers, we have offered to lift their produce at Rs 4 to Rs 5 a kilogram,” he said.
WHY PRICES CRASHED
Following the Centre’s demonetisation move, traders stopped lifting the produce. Seeing the drop in demand, cold storage owners refused to stock the crop.
“If farmers are not able to sell their produce, they will not be in position to pay for the storage charges,” reasoned a cold storage owner. There are 500 cold storages in Punjab, with a combined capacity of 25 lakh tonne.
Seeing the plight of farmers, the state government had asked deputy commissioners to ensure cold storage owners don’t fleece them.