Potato still hot, scientists show way Phailin effect on papaya, drumsticks

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By SUBHASHISH MOHANTY AND SANDIP BAL ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SIBDAS KUNDU IN BALASORE
  • Published 11.11.13
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Bhubaneswar, Nov. 10: Potatoes continue to be beyond the reach of consumers despite efforts by the state government to end the crisis.

Barring select government-sponsored outlets, where it is being sold at regulated prices of Rs 20 to Rs 25, the rates of potato in the open market still vary between Rs 80 and Rs 90, that, too, if it is available at all.

In Balasore, the state government today seized 64 tonnes of potatoes that came in seven trucks from Bengal. Of these, four potato-laden trucks were diverted to Jagatsinghpur, while the potato that was recovered from the remaining three trucks, would be distributed in Balasore district at Rs 20 per kg.

Wholesalers in cities such as Bhubaneswar and Cuttack have been forced to down shutters because of scarcity of the tuber. The situation has remained unchanged for the last three days, with the tuber practically vanishing from the platter of the people across the state. People are being forced to make do with drumsticks and papaya that are grown mostly in their garden. But when bought in the open market, even these vegetables are pinching the pocket.

The price of drumsticks, which normally sell for Rs 30 per kg, has jumped more than five times, reaching Rs 160 to Rs 200 per kg. The price of papaya also has touched Rs 50 to Rs 60 per kg from Rs 10 to 12 per kg. After Phailin hit the state on October 12, the rate of papaya crashed drastically to Rs 2 to Rs 3 per kg as all the trees were uprooted and the vegetables were available in abundance. It was the same case for drumstick, which was being sold at a lower-than-usual rate just after the cyclone.

“But now, the price of these vegetables have increased exorbitantly and people dare not touch these products,” said Santosh Kumar Sahu, a trader at Unit-I market. He said most of the drumsticks were being supplied to the major markets of Bhubaneswar from Palasa in Andhra Pradesh.

“Besides, local products occupy the market during this season. Even Keonjhar and Jajpur belt, where drumsticks are cultivated in large scale, provide this vegetable to the market here and outside the state. But, the cyclone destroyed all the trees in these areas, badly affecting the price of drumsticks,” said Sahu.

He said that while more than five tonnes of drumstick used to be sold in the market here every day, traders were now forced to procure drumsticks from Tamil Nadu in very small quantities.

Traders said the local production of papaya during this season normally sustained the local market till the first week of March every year. But, the cyclone, rain and flood uprooted these trees.

The local market procures papaya from Dhenkanal, Athgarh, Angul and Satasankh in Puri. “As all the papaya trees have been uprooted, we are forced to procure it from Bengal, East Godavari area of Andhra Pradesh and other states. But, many of our trucks have been detained on the border by Bengal government officials even though these trucks do not carry potato,” said a trader.

The traders even blamed the state government for the disappearance of potato from the market.

“Though the government failed to procure potato from Bengal, we could have got this vegetable from other states in our own way. But, the government officials have been raiding our trucks and seizing potatoes. So, no one wants to procure it in their own capacity and suffer loss,” said another trader.

On the other hand, brinjal is being sold at Rs 60 per kg, tomato at Rs 70, onion at Rs 55 and ginger at Rs 120.

Secretary of Kuberpuri Potato Merchants’ Association Shakti Shankar Mishra said: “We have contacted potato wholesalers of various states. Many potato-laden trucks are likely to reach the city within two days. However, the price of the potato is not likely to go down very soon.”

In Cuttack, Mahanagar Citizens’ Committee today organised a rally at Gopalpur on NH-5 to protest against the Bengal government’s decision not to send any potato-laden truck to Odisha.

What should be done

There should be mechanism to supply good quality potato seeds as tubers, tissue culture- produced tubers or true potato seeds (as used in the northeastern states)

There should be enough storage space as the state has only 14 cold store units, while it needs 200

There should be scope for proper irrigation in regions such as Koraput, Phulbani and Sundargarh, where potatoes can be produced in twice a year

Technical knowhow on potato production should be provided to farmers lFarmers also need enough subsidy and loan guarantee support from banks

Market linkage of the production should be ensured, minimum support price decided
and crop should be linked to public distribution network so that it can be available to all

How to go about

From Feb 2014, state government should collect good quality potato seeds from Punjab or Uttar Pradesh at affordable price and store them for distribution among farmers

Like in Karnataka, potato production can be taken up in public-private partnership. Karnataka has invited farmers from Punjab to boost potato production

If annual potato production is 6-7 lakh tonnes a year, there will be no recurrence of the present crisis

Steps taken

Horticulture directorate will set up eight modern cold storage units across the state this year

Modernisation of seven existing old cold stores is also in the pipeline

There is already a plan to get 19,500 quintal potato seeds from Punjab

Awareness campaigns and demonstration workshops for farmers have also been planned