Calcutta, July 2: The government today sanctioned Rs 3.5 crore to subsidise transportation of potato to other states and sought the Centre’s help to facilitate export of the crop to countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.
Finance minister Asim Dasgupta said at Writers’ Buildings the subsidy was being provided to deal with the glut in production over the past couple of years.
Sources in the agriculture marketing department said Uttar Pradesh, which had a good potato crop this year, had announced certain incentives for inter-state transport operators handling the tuber.
“So, in the interest of the state, we had to provide subsidy at the rate of Rs 7 per quintal to those transporting potato to other states,” said Dasgupta.
Dasgupta and agriculture marketing minister Chhaya Ghosh said the state had produced a record 85 lakh tonnes of potato this year and farmers were resorting to distress sale. “Our subsidy on potato transportation will help farmers who have produced the crop on 3.4 lakh hectares. We think once the supply of potato to other states begins, farmers will get a better price,” the finance minister said. The annual requirement of potato in Bengal is 50 lakh tonnes.
The subsidy will be given to the government’s co-operative agency, Benfed, and a decision on how the money will be disbursed will be taken at a meeting in a couple of days.
It is learnt that potato farmers are being forced to sell their crop at an average price of Rs 1.70 per kg while it is being sold in the city markets at the rate of Rs 5. This sharp difference in prices is due to middlemen, whom the government intends to sideline in future.
The government is also keen to export potato to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Samples of the crop have been sent to Malaysia and a response is awaited from the country.
Dasgupta said the bumper potato production over the past two years had become a matter of concern for the government and a change in the crop pattern is urgently required.