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Doaba seed Potato farmers of Punjab hit by low prices for fourth year

March 14, 2019 12:21 PM |

Potato Farming

The state of Punjab is divided into sub divisions, out of which one is the Doaba region. The Doaba region comprises of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr, which are the hub for seed Potato.

The state of Punjab accounts to merely 5 percent of the entire India’s potato output. However, it happens to be the supplier of fresh seed of potatoes to all potato producing states which includes Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Potatoes are for the most part proliferated by vegetative techniques; the "seeds" that farmers plant are the tubers, having nodes from which the stems develop into new plants. Be that as it may, for the Doaba belt's seed-potato cultivators, 2019 looks set to be the fourth progressive year of low costs and demands for their produce. These farmers sow their yield between mid-October and end-November, and start to harvest from mid-February to end-March. The gathered tubers are kept in the fields under the front of paddy/wheat crop stubbles for 2-3 weeks. When their peels are hardened, they are, at that point, put in cold stores available to be purchased throughout the year.

As per a seed potato grower in Punjab, when the prices of potatoes are good, farmers from other states do buy seeds. If not, the farmers they use their own saved crop as seed, which does not yield much and is also more disease-prone.

Farmers of Doaba region grow regular ones along with low sugar processing grade varieties, which includes Kufri Jyoti, Kufri Chipsona, Kufri Pukhraj, Badshah, Diamond, Chandramukhi and Sultana. The yields of seed potato cultivation happen to be quite labour intensive and the yields are just about 80-100 quintals per acre, against 120-140 quintals for table varieties.

The tuber sizes are to be maintained at 45-55 mm which is 70-90 mm for table potatoes. This is done through stalks trimming above the growth after 70 days, so that extra growth is prevented. Not only this, the stubble covering, harvesting as well as grading is also to be done quite carefully.

As per a seed potato cultivator, the cultivation cost is around Rs.6 per kg, and another Rs. 3 is added to post harvesting. The cultivator assumes that he may have lost at least Rs. 20 lakh. He says, that the government should ensure a minimum price of Rs. 15 for potato farmers, making it worthwhile for planting good seed as consumers do pay at least 20-25 per kg for the same.

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Another seed potato cultivator reveals that he kept stocks of seed potatoes from crops of Feb and March 2018 for an entire year as he waited for prices to improve. Ultimately, 7,000 bags of 50 kg each at Rs 35 per bag to a Rajasthan gaushala supplier. Moreover, he has taken more than 100 acres on lease, which is apart from the 25 acres he owns so that he can grow seeds this season.

He is relying on hope as the market is unpredictable, he may be able to recover all his losses if suddenly demands increase as they are the only ones who can supply seeds.

Another cultivator has demonetization to blame for the low potato prices. As the business runs completely on cash, he hasn’t been able to get advance orders or payment from traders in cash.

The state of Punjab has 25 lakh tonnes of potatoes produced each year on area of one lakh hectares. Out of this, just about 40% of it are table potatoes which are ready for harvest by December end. The rest 60% is seed, out of which a whopping 95% is grown in the Doaba. Jalandhar alone has big seed-potato players which includes Sangha Farms, Bhatti Agritech and JS Farms.

The Doaba region is used widely for seed production not only due to the r deep sandy loam soils, but also because the months between October-December are free of aphid attacks. During the month of December, the plant leaces are cut and the tuber remains inside the earth. This reduces the probability of virus infestation from outside.

The potato growers in the Doaba region have seen better times and are now looking for some kind of saving grace.

Image Credit:

Source: Indian Express

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