The Chandramukhi variety of potato has returned to Kolkata’s markets but is being sold at a much higher price than before.
On Sunday, Chandramukhi sold for Rs 35 to Rs 40 a kilo in the city. A few months ago, the rate varied between Rs 25 and Rs 30 a kilo.
The prices of other vegetables and chicken remained high, too. Tomatoes sold for Rs 50 a kilo and dressed chicken between Rs 280 and Rs 290 a kilo (see chart).
Chandramukhi, considered the best and is the most expensive of all potato varieties, vanished from the city’s market a few days back. On Sunday, it sold along with other varieties, such as Jyoti and Pokhraj.
For most shoppers, however, the cost of Chandramukhi came as a shocker.
“I usually prefer this variety because of its softness and taste. Last time, I bought it for Rs 25 a kilo. Today it sold for more than Rs 35,” said a resident of Kasba in south Kolkata.
Farmers said Chandramukhi was a low yielding variety and had traditionally sold at a rate higher than Jyoti, which sells the most, and other varieties. However, the price of Chandramukhi was never this high.
“A cottah of farmland yields only 150kg of Chandramukhi potatoes, compared with 500kg of the Jyoti variety. A gap of 12 inches needs to be maintained between two Jyoti plants. For Chandramukhi, it is 18 inches. So there is a lot of wastage of land while cultivating this particular variety of potato,” said Apurba Saha, a potato grower from Sheakhala in Hooghly, a major potato-growing district. “This year, the production of Chandramukhi has been severely hit.”
Officials in the agriculture department blamed the poor yield of potatoes in general on untimely rain between October and December. Across districts, potato plants wilted away as the farmlands got flooded.
“Almost all potato growers were hit twice because of the non-seasonal rain. During their third attempt at sowing potato seeds, all of them opted for the Jyoti variety to make up for their losses,” an official said.
The result of the untimely rain showed during the harvest of potatoes.
Bengal this time has produced just about 1.1 crore tonnes of potatoes, compared with the usual harvest of around 1.4 crore tonnes, agriculture department officials said.
“The demand-supply scene is such that against 100 sacks of Jyoti variety, only two sacks of Chandramukhi are being brought out of cold stores,” said Kamal Dey, president of the West Bengal Vendors Association.
Several varieties of vegetables, including tomatoes, carrots and brinjals, continued to sell at a rate much higher than the usual prices.
Dressed chicken sold for Rs 280 to Rs 290 a kilo, up by almost Rs 30-40 in a week-and-a half.
Traders said the price would continue to rise.
Several poultry farm owners have temporarily shut down their businesses unable to battle the rising price of feed. The ones that are operational are trying to cash in on the demand-supply mismatch, resulting in a retail price hike, they said.
“High prices will mean lesser consumption. Fall in demand will mean more losses for poultry farms,” said Netai Malakar, a wholesale chicken trader.
Markets on fire
Chandramukhi potatoes: Rs 35-Rs 40 a kilo
Sold for Rs 25-30 per kilo a few months back
Tomatoes: Rs 50
Sold for Rs 25 a kilo a few weeks back
Carrots: Rs 50-Rs 60 a kilo
Sold for Rs 30 a kilo three weeks back
Brinjal: Rs 60 a kilo
Sold for Rs 40 a kilo a few weeks back
Dressed chicken: Rs 280 - Rs 290 a kilo
Sold for Rs 250 a kilo two weeks back