The Indian state of West Bengal is suffering an acute potato crisis due to a lack of availability of cold storage facilities. While the state produces 11.5 million tons of potatoes annually, currently there is a storage capacity of only 7 million tons.
To add to the problem, the government controls the storage rental prices. Patit Paban Dey, the president of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association has been quoted as saying: “While the storage rate per ton in adjacent Bihar is ₹2400, here it is ₹1360 only and is much lower than in any other state… As the rate is controlled by the State government, we cannot change it. The government must re-set the rate.”
According to an article on opindia.com¸ Dey further added that the initial investment for cold storage is around ₹8000 per ton with an operational cost of ₹1250 per ton per season. However, the rental amount is fixed at ₹1360 per ton. As such, there is a significant decline in investment by potato traders in cold storage facilities in West Bengal.
The West Bengal government had reportedly procured 42,000 tons of potatoes to ensure ‘fair price’ to the farmers. Another objective behind the move was to stabilise market prices in case of chronic shortage. Despite clearance from the Agriculture Department of the State and the rise of potato prices to ₹40/kg in the open markets, the Chief Minister’s Office has refused to budge. Had the government released the potato stock, it would not have to sell subsidised potatoes (at ₹25/kg) via the stalls built under the ‘Sufal Bangla’ scheme.
[ ₹100 = €1.20 ]