Potato prices likely to stay stable thanks to govt initiative of nearly free cold storages
Kolkata: The initiative on the part of the Mamata Banerjee government to store potatoes in cold storages nearly free of charge in the month of December is likely to maintain retail prices at a stable level even in February-March. The price of potatoes had soared to nearly Rs 30/kg in March 2017.
The state government has already issued a notification in this regard, stating that potatoes can be kept in the cold storages till December 15 without paying any additional rent and beyond this period till December 31, an extra rent at the rate of Rs 12 per quintal could be charged from the users of the cold storages.
"Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has instructed us to keep the potato prices under control. Every year, the price of potatoes start soaring steadily in January and February and so, we have decided to extend the storage facility till another month, which will create a supply-demand balance. This will ensure a parity in the market price," a senior official of the state Agricultural Marketing department said.
It may be mentioned that in the end of November, cold storages are closed for routine maintenance work for the next year. So, a huge amount of potatoes are dispatched to the market, which is much more than the demand. Thus, they have to be sold off at distress-price levels. The retail prices had dropped to a ridiculous Rs 2.50/kg in December 2016.
This results in huge losses for the farmers and they strike back in February-March, controlling the release of adequate potatoes. This inadequate supply always leads to a price surge. Potatoes were sold at retail prices of upto Rs 30/kg in March 2017.
The state has an annual requirement of 65 lakh metric tonnes. This year, the state has a production of around 85 lakh metric tonnes, which is much lower than last year's figure of 110 lakh metric tonnes.
"Before 2010, our production was much lower than the requirement but in the last three years, we have produced a huge quantity of potatoes. For the last two years, we have been trying to develop an effective demand-supply management system so that the price
level remains stable. We are optimistic that the price will be under control next year," the official added.
An official in the state Agriculture department said that there is still three months left for the new crop to hit the market. "We have 11.5 lakh metric tonne potatoes in the cold storages. That is enough for three months. So, if we can manage the supply effectively, people will not face any problem," he maintained.