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Punjab Farmers Face Loss as Potato Prices Hit All-Time Low

Potato prices have hit a disappointing low this season and farmers who had anticipated profits similar to last year are dealing with the frustration. Kulwant Singh, a Jalandhar farmer had decided to switch his crop to potato, looking at the impressive earnings of the year before.

Eashani Chettri
Potato prices have hit a disappointing low this season in Punjab.
Potato prices have hit a disappointing low this season in Punjab.

Potato prices have hit a disappointing low this season and farmers who had anticipated profits similar to last year are dealing with the frustration. Kulwant Singh, a Jalandhar farmer had decided to switch his crop to potato, looking at the impressive earnings of the year before.

Table varieties, which were marketed between Rs 1,400 and Rs 1,500 last season, are now selling for approximately Rs 350 per quintal, while premium types, which were priced at Rs 1,800 per quintal last season, are only selling for around Rs 550 per quintal. This season's substantial price decline of roughly 70% has left farmers distressed.

“If we do not get good prices this time, we will have to go back to wheat.” Kulwant Singh stated.

The potato was sown over 1.14 lakh hectares which is 6000 hectares higher than the area under cultivation the previous season.

According to a farmer in Machhiwara near Samrala, the farmers are not even getting input costs. “We are facing extreme loss,” Sulhwinder Singh stated, one of the potato farmers, having grown over 125 acres.

For table varieties, a 50-kg bag is expected to fetch a maximum of Rs. 180 and the premium sugar-free, varieties used for processing potato wafers were sold at Rs. 275, according to Sulhwinder Singh.

The prices were opened at Rs 27 a kg but have only witnessed a downward spiral since. If the same continues, farmers are afraid that they will have to ditch the crop as they did a few years ago.

According to Kulwant, a kilogramme of table potatoes costs between 15 and 20 rupees in the open market. "The input cost cannot be repaid at the price now being offered. A kilogramme of potatoes often takes an input of at least Rs. 10, according to him.

Although farmers blame traders, experts believe the price decline is due to an increase in supply.

According to Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal), corporate houses had sold potato seeds to farmers with the promise of purchasing the harvest back, but they have now backed off. He requested assistance from the state government in supporting the farmers.

In most cases, traders have agreements with the farmers and buy the potato products straight from them before reselling them in significant mandis in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, and even Delhi. "The dealers later sell the produce at a higher price, pocketing the proceeds, after taking the product away from the farmers," Rajewal continued.

However, according to horticulture director Shailendra Kaur, the farmers shouldn't give up. "Harvest time has only just begun. Prices will rise during the next few days. There is no need to panic because the arrival has not yet gotten underway. If someone has given a cheap price, we can't use that to determine the trend for the season,” he noted.

She claims that the state has 630 cold stores for storing potatoes and that the product can be sold when prices rise during the off-season. Only until crop arrivals start in other states like Uttar Pradesh will the true pattern be apparent. She stated that "65% of the yield is for seed purposes and sells at a decent price."

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