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Twin push to potato price

- GOVT STAND: THEN AND NOW

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 7: Potato has become scarce in the wake of floods with rates soaring to Rs 40 to Rs 50 per kg from Rs 20 a week ago. What has compounded the crisis is almost no supply from Bengal and hoarding.

The city needs 500 to 700 tonnes of potato daily and the requirement is met with 30 to 40 truckloads of the produce coming from Bengal. But not a single truck from the neighbouring state has arrived here in the last three days.

“Yesterday only six truckloads of potatoes reached here from a godown in Cuttack. This was like a drop in an ocean of requirement. When the state is facing such a crisis, we get to know that Punjab farmers having exported a major chunk of their produce to Pakistan. Therefore, the state is trying to tide over the trouble with potatoes from Bengal. But even that is not happening as the Bengal Government wants to levy an additional 10 per cent tax on potato consignments. Since a decision on this is still pending, there is no movement of the trucks from Sonakonia check post on the Bengal-Odisha border,’’ said Sudhakar Panda, working president of Kuberpuri Byabasayi Sangh, Ainginia, on city outskirts.

Pitambar Parida, who buys vegetable from Unit I Daily Market, was surprised to find that potato had vanished from the market.

“Last night I heard that the prices have risen to Rs 30 a kg, so I came here in the hope of buying some. But there is no trace of the tuber here,” he said.

Jasaswini Mohapatra, a housemaker from Soubhagya Nagar (Phase II), said the rise in the price of potato is unacceptable at a time when the state is in the grip of floods.

“The government should take immediate steps to resolve the crisis,” she said.

Civil supplies secretary Madhusudan Padhi said: “The state government has initiated the process of talks with the Bengal government as it was found that potato laden-trucks from the neighbouring state were asked to stop at the border.”

On the other hand, the state government today requested the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) to supply 3,000 quintals of potato to Odisha in the first phase.

“Potato consignments will take minimum three to four days to arrive here as they will come from the Nafed godowns in Kanpur,’’ said a senior official of the Civil Supplies Department. “

“The state government has decided to sell potatoes at market price at PDS and Maitree stores,” the official said.

Panda, who is also the general secretary of All Odisha Byabasayi Sangh, said: “Last year after Phailin, our organisation had suggested that all the 18 cold storages of the state government should be made functional so that potato farmers can use them and store nearly 2 lakh tonnes of tuber that can sustain us for two months, but nothing has happened so far.”

A senior official of the civil supplies department, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said: “For the last five years we are suggesting that farmers should be allowed to use cold storages across the state at a concessional tariff, but there is no response.”

Professor of plant breeding and an expert associated with the All India Coordinated Research Project on Potato at the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology P.C. Satpathy said: “With better use of irrigation facility in areas having cooler climate, we can produce more potato but we need modern storage facilities.”

Odisha produces 1.98 lakh tones of potatoes, but consumes more than nine tonnes. The rest of the supply comes from Bengal. State horticulture directorate claims that actual production in Odisha was 2.5 lakh tonnes if monsoon production in cool climatic regions such as Koraput and Phulbani is taken into consideration.

However, the bulk of this produce gets diverted to the neighbouring states for want of enough storage space in Odisha.