'More varieties, seed generation can prevent distress potato sales in Bengal'
Amid problem of distress sales of potatoes by farmers in West Bengal, agricultural scientists on Thursday said higher production of processing varieties, seed generation within the state and contract farming could help in averting such situations.
With the favourable climatic condition and higher yield, the potato production is expected to touch 110-115 lakh tonnes this year in the state while it was around 90-95 lakh tonnes in the last year. The bumper crop, however, has led to market price coming down significantly.
According to farmers, they got, on an average, Rs 350-370 for a packet of 50 kg potato in the last year while they have been only able to get around Rs 170-180 for it this year, marking a huge loss.
"Such situation will not be avoided unless and until, the state starts generating potato seeds. We do not produce good quality potato seed and majority of seeds are being imported from Punjab and others states. However, seed constitutes about 40 percent of the production cost and we must focus on producing potato seeds to improve the cost dynamics," said Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya's Vice Chancellor D.D. Patra.
Echoing Patra, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development's (NABARD) Chief General Manager A.K. Raybarman said the agricultural bank has rolled out apilot project to produce certified seeds in Bengal's Hooghly district.
"We would like to ramp up the programme in the North Bengal," he said on the sidelines of India International Potato Expo 2017, organised by ICC.
Central Potato Research Institute's (CPRI) Seed Technology Head R.K Singh emphasised on producing processing varieties of potatoes so that industries could procure such varieties.
"Good quality of seeds will increase the yield and accordingly, the production will increase. We need to produce more of processing varieties so that industries could procure such potatoes and farmers get a better price," he said, adding that CPRI developed more than 50 varieties of potato and of which six are of processing varieties.
The experts also emphasised on "contract farming" so that farmers get the assured price and can insulate themselves from fluctuating market prices.
Experts also highlighted for setting up cold storages at strategic locations. In the state, there are about 470 cold storages dedicated for potatoes with a total capacity of 65 lakh tonnes.
"Cold storage capacity has to be increased where potato production is much higher," said Raybarman, adding that the Nabard has provided financial assistance from Rural Infrastructure Development Fund to set up a 13,000 tonnes cold storage in Hooghly district which is known for potato production.
"The cold storage will be operational from the next year," he said.