Hot potato burns fingers

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  • Published 11.11.13

The cascading effect of Bengal’s alleged ban on the supply of potato to other states is drilling holes in the pockets of Patna residents.

The price of the tuber has almost doubled in a fortnight. It was even dearer during Chhath.

A couple of weeks ago, the retail price of the old variety of potato was Rs 16. Now it is selling between Rs 22 and 24 per kg. The price of the new variety is Rs 32-36 per kg.

The pocket pinch was more acute during Chhath — the biggest festival of the state. On the day of Kharna (the second day of Chhath on November 7), the new variety of potato was priced at Rs 55-Rs 60 per kg.

Homemaker Rinku, a resident of the Rajapul area, said: “I bought potato at Rs 60 per kg on the day of Kharna.”

Last year, the price of the tuber during Chhath was Rs 8-Rs 10 per kg.

Experts attributed the price hike to the short supply of potatoes from Bengal. The neighbouring state meets 60 per cent of the total tuber demand of the city. The rest comes from Uttar Pradesh and local cultivators. Both account for 20 per cent of the total demand.

“After the ban imposed by the Bengal government on the export of potatoes, the supply has dropped to 20 per cent. Even that is coming clandestinely. Since potatoes are being brought through different routes, its price has soared,” said Sujeet Kumar, a wholesaler at Mithapur Mandi.

Firoz Ahmed, an employee of the Patna branch of Food Corporation of India, criticised the state government for not intervening in the matter. “The Bengal government has banned export of potatoes following its price hike. Why the state government is not intervening in the matter to control the situation?” asked Ahmed.

A senior officer in the agriculture department, requesting anonymity, said the state government had no official information on the Bengal government imposing a ban on supply of potato to other states. “If it is so, the state would certainly raise the issue because rules do not permit any check on the movement of food items within the country,” he said.

Bihar alone is not feeling the pinch because of the Bengal government’s ban on potato supply to other states. Odisha, too, is feeling the heat. Bengal-bound trucks carrying fish and other vegetables from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka via Odisha were not allowed to ply through the state on Saturday.

Patna-based traders have no such blockade plans, though. “We shall not do anything like that. If we do not get supply from Bengal, we shall bring potatoes from other states,” Sujeet, the wholesaler at Mithapur Mandi, said.

While the potato supply from Bengal has dropped by over 65 per cent, the contribution of Uttar Pradesh has also declined. “It is supplying 5 per cent against the 20 per cent of the total demand. The flow of the local produce has been poor as well,” said Sujeet.

Amid the gloom, there is some good news. The price of potato is expected to come down within 10 days because different traders in the city are bringing stocks from Jharkhand and Haryana. Around 100 tonnes of potatoes reached the city market from different places on Sunday, marginally bringing down the price. Besides, we are expecting a good quantity of potato from Uttar Pradesh soon. Once it arrives, the price of potato will certainly drop,” Sujeet added.

The wholesale price of the new variety of potato on Sunday was Rs 22 per kg at Mithapur Mandi. But The Telegraph found huge disparities in its retail prices.

The new variety of potato was sold at four different prices at Anta Ghat — Rs 26, Rs 28, Rs 30 and Rs 32 per kg. The retailers in the Ashiana area charged customers Rs 36 per kg.

Sujeet said: “The retailers are not passing on the benefit to customers.”

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