Potato farmers in Bengal export their produce to Bangladesh due to abundance and lower prices

Potato growers in  West Bengal have started exporting tubers to neighboring Bangladesh due to abundant supply and lower market prices.  “Selling the country’s potato supplies is becoming difficult these days. Farmers are not getting the prices they want because of oversupply. So some big farmers have started exporting to Bangladesh. At Sealdah’s Koley market in Kolkata, wholesale prices of the Jyoti potato variety are hovering around Rs 15-16/kg, which is lower than the same period last year. The state government controls the market prices of the widely used Jyoti variety, which is also a high-yielding tuber variety. Ranchi potatoes have already reached the West Bengal market and deliveries from Punjab are likely to arrive in early December. Besides, early varieties of Bengal potatoes like Pukhraj enter the market in the third week of December.  “After the arrival of fresh produce, people do not want to buy old stock. That is why potatoes are exported to Bangladesh for a few days. Without exports, farmers with old stock would be in a difficult situation,” Dey said, adding that West Bengal exported very little to the neighboring country last year. Dey is also the president of the West Bengal Vegetable Growers and Sellers Association.  In 2022-23,  West Bengal, the second largest potato-growing state in the country, cultivated about 4.60 lakh hectares of potatoes with a total production of about 100 lakh tonnes, which was more than in 2021-22. 

 “Current prices are significantly lower than last year. It is difficult to predict whether prices will remain in this range. Potato from Uttar Pradesh can change many things,” said Patit Paban De, a senior member of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association. Uttar Pradesh is the largest producer in the country.  The full sowing of potatoes in Bengal usually begins in the middle of November, the crop being harvested in the following January. For 2023-24, if the weather conditions are favorable, full sowing will begin in the same period. The sowing of some early potato varieties was delayed due to the September-October rains. Farmers were also less interested due to low prices. Large-scale sowing begins at the usual time. However, unseasonal rains can delay sowing, De said.  “Sales of seed potatoes to farmers started in our region at the end of October. We will start sowing in 7-8 days,” said Dilip Koley, a farmer at Haripal in Hooghly district. Hooghly, Bardhaman, Bankura, East Midnapore, and West Midnapore are the major potato-growing regions. “Agricultural fields in our area will remain unchanged this season. It’s not growing,” Koley added.  In particular, potato prices fell in February this year due to a bumper harvest, causing pain to some farmers. Prices improved somewhat after the West Bengal government fixed a minimum procurement price (MPP) of Rs 650 per quintal in March.

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