Traders resort to hoarding and black-marketing at some places

Potato scarcity has hit Odisha’s retail market badly as uncertainty continues to prevail over import of potato from West Bengal.

Potato stocks have vanished from local markets in most parts of the State. At some places, traders have resorted to black-marketing. Potato was being sold somewhere between Rs. 35 and Rs. 40 per kilogram.

Even as the crisis over potato scarcity is growing by the day, the State government is struggling to rein in black-marketing and hoarding. In major markets potato, an essential food ingredient in kitchens of the State, has vanished since Wednesday.

The crisis started after the West Bengal government decided to restrict movement of potato stocks from the State from October 24. During the past one week, the entire stock available in the State has been exhausted. Odisha is fully dependant on West Bengal for potato.

Trucks seized

A helpless civil supplies department on Thursday seized two trucks of potato near Aiginia. “We have taken control of two trucks of potato and distributed among 174 public distribution outlets and ensured that the price is not inflated,” said Jnanendriya Mishra, Inspector of Supplies in Bhubaneswar.

State looks at options

The State government on Thursday said it was looking to import potato from other sources.

“It is a supply-demand issue. We have to augment supply in order to tackle the crisis. If potato is not coming from West Bengal, we would look for supply from other sources,” said Chief Secretary J. K. Mohapatra.

However, market experts say that attempts to get potato stock from States other than West Bengal would prove futile. Potato is produced in Punjab and Haryana. But the price of potato would sharply go up if it is imported from northern States.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has called up West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to relax norms on potato export from the State.

At Cuttack too

Even as the Cuttack district administration on Thursday made an attempt to sell potatoes at fair price shops at a reasonable price of Rs. 20 a kilo, the 32 shops run by the civil supply department were not enough to meet the demand of the city. More shockingly, potatoes were not available with any vendor on the day in the city’s biggest vegetable market at Chhatrabazar.

At some places in the city, outside the vegetable mandi, potatoes were selling at Rs. 30 per kg making it nearly beyond the reach of even the salaried class to buy the essential vegetable.

“If potatoes have vanished from the market, other available vegetables are impossible to lay hands on. Prices of every vegetable are above Rs. 50 a kg,” said a government employee in dismay.

Stock exhausted

The fair price shops run by the district civil supply department however, made an attempt to sell potatoes at Rs. 20 a kg.

But soon the 32 fair price shops had to down their shutters as their stocks were exhausted in no time.

“We had supplied only two sacks of potatoes to every shop and it was rationed selling only one kg to each buyer,” said an employee of the department.