Potato storage remains problem for Pakistan

In Pakistan's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the emerging potato problem in Gobor valley is particularly acute because of the imposing eight-kilometre-long Lowari Tunnel which lies between the region's potato farmers and the nearest markets in Punjab province.

The transport problems, combined with lack of cold storage in the area, have left 20 percent of Hazar's potato crop damaged, he said.

Once, cooler temperatures might have let farmers store some of their crop for seed and to eat at home. But warmer temperatures mean potatoes held back from market now often rot.

Ibrahim Mughal, the chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan, a body representing Pakistani farmers, estimates Pakistan will produce over six million tonnes of potatoes this year, while consuming only three million tonnes.

"The surplus production has hit the farmers hard as it has brought down the price to 4,000 rupees ($39.50) per 120 kilograms against 6,000 rupees ($59.30) per 120 kilograms the last year," he said.

He said middlemen and businessmen were also "slaughtering the growers" by purchasing excess potatoes from farmers at low rates and then banking them in cold storage facilities, which the farmers lack.

The aim, he said, is for "the businessmen (to) create an artificial shortage of the product in the market in next two to three months and (then) start selling it for over 6,000 rupees per 120 kilograms".

Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan, parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Industries and Production, said the government should make arrangements to export the surplus crop to Russia, the Middle East and Gulf countries to earn foreign exchange and keep the price stable in local markets.

Provincial governments in potato-growing areas, especially Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, should also help growers build local cold storage facilities to protect farmers from exploitation by middlemen, and to keep prices stable in local markets, he said.

Source: indiatimes.com

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