Potatoes at 20 paise/kg in wholesale; UP farmers, cold storages in distress
With farmers not turning up at cold storage facilities to take away their potato produce, and the produce beginning to rot, storage owners have started dumping the rotting tubers on roadsides and fields for stray cattle and the poor to feed on. A total of 2.5 lakh tonnes of the produce, which could not be sold, are being dumped across Agra district alone.
According to sources, the wholesale price of potato has reached as low as Rs 10 for a packet of 50 kg, which translates into 20 paise per kg. Besides, farmer have to pay transportation cost to take potatoes for sale to big markets. Moreover, to take the potatoes from cold storage centres, farmers have to pay a storage fee of Rs 110 per packet. The economics don't add up for them anymore. In July, the wholesale price was Rs 400 per packet. But there has been a continuous fall in prices since then. Considering the low prices of the tuber and in order to avoid further losses, farmers have simply decided not to take the stored produce away.
Meanwhile, most of the 240 cold storage units operating in the district have switched off their preservation machines to save on electricity expenses. This is causing rapid rotting of potatoes. Now thousands of tonnes of the produce are being taken out and dumped.
President of Agra Cold Storage Association Sudarshan Agarwal said, "The time period for storage is over. Even after several days of delay, farmers are not coming to take their stored potatoes because of the very low market rate prevailing at present. The produce can't be preserved any longer, and we have no other options apart from dumping them. Cleaning and repairing works are required to be started in the units for agricultural produce in the coming season."
Aamir Bhai, general secretary of Potato Producers' Association said, "It is estimated that around 50 lakh sacks of 50 kg each, totalling 2.5 lakh tonnes of potatoes, are kept in cold storages of Agra district alone. Farmers can't afford to pay storage rates or transport produce to the markets, so we can't take the produce away. Farmers have suffered a massive loss because of this."
Potato is a major crop in the district, cultivated in around 72,000 hectares. Agra division, which includes Agra, Firozabad, Mathura and Mainpuri, is one of the major producers of the tuber in the country.
Deputy director of horticulture, Dr Kaushal Kumar said, "Strict action will be taken against those dumping potatoes in open areas. There are rules and regulations for disposal of potatoes. They are to be dumped in pits and covered properly. We are sending a proposal to the district administration for constitution of a monitoring committee for safe disposal of the produce. The committee will include officials of Agra Municipal Corporation, Pollution board, departments of animal husbandry, agriculture and horticulture as well as representatives of the district administration."
According to doctors, rotten potatoes are harmful for both human beings and animals and may cause fungal infections if eaten. Air polluted by decaying potatoes can cause serious respiratory problems for lung patients.
By BOA Bureau