In U.P., potato farmers dump their produce as prices crash

Grading system and rates offered by State agencies bring little relief

January 13, 2018 09:03 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 08:14 am IST - KANNAUJ

Free for all:  Horses eating rotten potatoes dumped by cold storage owners at a village in Kannauj district.

Free for all: Horses eating rotten potatoes dumped by cold storage owners at a village in Kannauj district.

Large dumps of rotting potatoes can be spotted on either side of the kutcha road leading to Bhimakpura village. The stench emanating from them is unbearable. But for hungry mules and cows, the potatoes, discarded by farmers and cold storages, are a welcome treat.

“At least these animals are helping us clear it, or else all this will lead to illness,” said young farmer Anuj Yadav, who is stacking Pokhraj potatoes freshly reaped on his family’s 20 bigha land some distance away.

This year, Mr. Yadav, a resident of Tirwa, has already got 50 sacks of potatoes (one sack holds 50 kg on average) from just three bighas.

Production is not the problem here. Farmers are finding it difficult to sell their produce at profitable rates. Mr. Yadav fears the potatoes grown by him this year will face the same fate as his produce last year, when he produced 200 sacks. Out of it he sold 100 in the market, while the other half he dumped in a cold storage, in the expectation that the government would purchase it or the rates would improve. That didn’t happen.


And as prices fell and the new crop started pouring in, Mr. Yadav’s old potatoes turned into a liability as they had no takers. Withdrawing them from the cold storage and transporting them to the marketss in the hope of a profitable sale would entail additional costs for him.

“So I left them to rot. The cold storage dumped it outside as I didn’t go to pick it up. The government did not buy a single kilo. Where else will I take the potatoes?” he asked. In addition to the cost of the crop, which comes to around ₹6-8 per kg, Mr. Yadav would also have to pay ₹240 per quintal to the cold storage. “I still owe them money. They will squeeze it out from me next season or will not allow me to store my potatoes,” said Mr. Yadav.

Last year, Uttar Pradesh produced 155 lakh metric tonnes of potatoes, the highest ever in the State. However, the bumper crop led to a slump in rates for farmers. To provide them relief, the Yogi Adityanath government launched a market intervention, under which the State agencies would purchase 1 lakh metric tonnes at a support price of ₹487 per quintal. However, farmers alleged that the State left them in the lurch.

At best, only their best potatoes were selected, leaving the bulk of the produce at their disposal with few takers. Due to the State’s grading system, of a quintal on average only 20 kg of potatoes, the shiny, smooth, medium-sized ones, would be selected, said Kuldeep Singh, a farmer.

Payment delays

“What do I do with the rest? When we sell to the government, the payment involves a lengthy process as it is done through the bank. We are hard-pressed to pay the labour and settle our dues in cash. So we sell our produce to the traders, who may not give us satisfactory rates but are not so choosy about grading,” said Mr. Singh.

According to a government official, 12,937 quintals of potatoes, the highest-ever, were purchased from farmers in April-May last year. This pushed up the rate for farmers by ₹100 per quintal. “But then farmers started getting more than the government price in the markets; so they stopped coming to us,” said S.P Joshi, Director, Uttar Pradesh horticulture department.

And the price is at the core of the discontent. According to farmers, to grow 1 kg of potato, including costs of storage, required an investment of ₹8-9.

Geetendra Yadav, a farmer-cum-activist, said the minimum cost to grow a kg of average-quality potatoes was ₹6.27, more than the ₹4.87 offered by the government.

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