The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted potato cultivation in the Nilgiris, leading indirectly to a price increase; 1 kg goes for ₹45-55 (€0.54-0.66) at Mettupalayam market. Growers and traders say the price of potatoes, popularly called ‘Ooty potatoes’ for their unique taste, has increased in the last few weeks.
According to Horticulture Department officials, these potatoes are grown on 1,500-1,800 hectares each year in the district. While they are unsure of the exact acreage of the crop since the pandemic started, they have noticed a few growers with larger landholdings staying away from extensive potato cultivation this year owing to the uncertainty.
One vegetable grower from Muthorai Palada stated that after the lockdown was announced in March, many growers decided to switch to vegetables that can be cultivated with minimal input costs. “As many were unsure of when the lockdown would be lifted and because of the problems in the transport of vegetables to other districts for a few weeks after the announcement, many growers decided to grow low-maintenance crops.”