Bengal ration shops to continue potato sales till prices fall (Lead)

July 25th, 2012 - 6:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, July 25 (IANS) Prices of the humble potato, the common man’s staple food, are likely to remain high till December, prompting the state government to continue selling the tuber through ration shops till prices decline.

Potato prices in West Bengal, the second largest producer of the tuber in the country after Uttar Pradesh, are ruling high in wholesale as well as retail markets owing to low production, high cold storage prices and soaring input costs.

“We are selling potato across the state between Rs.10 and Rs.12,” Food and Supplies Minister Jyoti Priya Mallick told IANS.

“We are getting good response. Potatoes will be sold from the ration shops until prices decline,” Mallick added.

Wholesale prices of potato were between Rs.7 and Rs.9 per kg last year when the state had a bumper 10-million tonne production after growing the same quantity of the crop the previous year. This year, however, only 8.5 million tonnes of the tuber could be produced in the state, leading to skyrocketing prices.

Currently, prices in the wholesale markets are ruling between Rs.10 and Rs.11, up by more than 30 percent compared with the corresponding period last year.”Potato is being sold at Rs.13-Rs.14 a kg in retail markets. I think the prices are likely to remain in the same range throughout the year, subject to weather conditions,” West Bengal Cold Storage Association member Patit Paban De told IANS.

De blamed this year’s slide in production, high cold storage loading prices as well as fall in cultivation of the tuber in south India for the prevailing high prices.”High prices of potato is an all-India phenomenon,” he said.

Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest producer of potato, also grew 20 percent less this time compared with 2011.Last month, retail prices of potato shot up to Rs.20 per kg in Kolkata.”Some merchants and sellers released less quantity of potatoes in the market as commodity exchanges had been saying that prices of the crop would go up further. We cautioned the government and it took steps to bring it to the present level,” De said.

He, however, added that prices were unlikely to fall further owing to fall in production in the southern parts of the country due to lack of rainfall this year.In southern India, the potato crop is cultivated between May and June.

“Potato cultivation in south India this year has been about 60 percent less than that of last year,” De added.

The state government, which accused hoarders and middlemen of escalating prices of vegetables, started selling the tuber from ration shops in all municipal towns from this month.

Potato, the domestic consumption of which is about 5.2 million tonnes annually in Bengal, is harvested during December-end and January.

(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted

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