In India, the potato consumption has crashed because bars, pubs and restaurants are shut. Potato prices have plunged up to 12% in the past month. Hotels, restaurants and bars normally buy 70% of French fries sold in the country, but the lockdown has badly hit sales, said Haresh Karamchandani, CEO, HyFun Foods, which makes frozen potato-based snacks including burger patty and wedges.
"Institutional sales have nosedived since the lockdown. This has hugely impacted the demand for potatoes. Offtake from the cold storages are down by 50%. Prices too have fallen by nearly 12% since the second week of April," said Arvind Agarwal, president of Cold Storage Association of Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh is India's largest potato producer with an output of 15.5 million tonnes a year. In West Bengal, the second-largest producer, demand fell more than 30%. "Kolkata is famous for its street-side food joints that serve thousands of people who come to Kolkata to work. Those are closed. And there is no demand from hotels and restaurants," said Patit Paban De, member of West Bengal Cold Storage Association.
He said prices have fallen 9% in the state that produced about 10 million tonnes of potatoes, of which 5.7 million tonnes are lying in cold storages.
This is bad news for farmers because many of them saw perishables rotting in their fields before transportation bottlenecks were resolved. They hoped to make money from potatoes, which have a longer shelf life.