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India: Bengal potato prices stable and affordablePotato prices are not likely to go down any time soon in West Bengal as a drop in production and a rise in online sales to other states, has led to shortfalls in the market place.
The Mamata Banerjee government had aimed to keep prices stable and had set up a task force to stop black market sales and hoarding of stock. However, in urban areas potatoes are now retailing at Rs12-15 per kg ($0.24-$0.29 US).
There was a reduction in cultivation this year to 3.75 lakh ha, because of losses to the industry last year and rising fertilizer costs. This has combined with a shortage of potatoes in Uttar Pradesh - the largest of potato producing states - which has encouraged traders to purchase potatoes elsewhere, via the internet.
State agriculture marketing minister Arup Roy said Bengal's potato production during December-March dropped by 15 per cent.
"We have reports that potatoes worth more than Rs 300 crore were sold online to other states," Roy said. However, he did play down the price rises and said that they were not cause for concern.
"This time last year, people purchased potatoes at Rs 6 per kg and farmers had to sell under distress conditions because of middlemen. This time, the menace was checked by task force committee members," Roy said.
He said that prices were actually lower this year than they were at the same time in 2011. "Potatoes are sold in the fields at Rs 8 per kg. The farmers therefore are getting the right price. Potatoes are sold in the retail market at Rs 12 per kg. This is because of increasing transport cost and not due to middlemen."
"This year overall potato production of the country dropped because of soaring prices of fertilizers and pesticides. Because of this shortfall, potato bonds are being purchased online by traders of the other states," said Swapan Samanta, a potato trader and functionary of Trinamool-controlled Tarakeswar municipality. "But potato prices are not beyond the reach of the people."
Publication date: 4/5/2012
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