Potatoes perish in Gujarat cold storage, farmers cry foul

May 27th, 2008 - 12:33 pm ICT by admin  

By V.N. Balakrishna
Palanpur (Gujarat), May 27 (IANS) Farmers in Deesa town of north Gujarat, accounting for the highest potato output in the state, are worried after much of their produce stocked at a state-run cold storage was found to have perished. “We are ruined. Our annual earnings have gone,” lamented Ramesh Thanaji Mali, a farmer from Athamanavas Ranpura village, 10 km from Deesa in Banaskantha district.

Mali, 36, had stored 254 bags of potatoes in the cold storage of the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC). He was shocked when he visited the storage room in the weekend.

“There was a nauseating smell of rotten potatoes all around,” Mali told IANS.

The APMC’s cold storage at Deesa, 28 km from here and about 150 km from Ahmedabad, has a capacity of storing 151,000 bags of 50-kg potatoes.

Deesa has 68 storages, all but one of them owned by private operators who charge slightly more than the APMC.

While APMC authorities refuse to quantify the extent of damage, farmers say potatoes worth Rs.25 million have perished due to the body’s negligence.

APMC chairman Govabhai Desai admitted the damage but said it was not as severe as made out. A police complaint was lodged against the cold storage operator, he said.

“It is too early to assess the loss since different agencies including an insurance company are looking at it. A team of the agriculture department conducted an inquiry into the damage; let us wait till it submits its report,” Desai said.

“Those stored potatoes are fully insured and farmers will get their claims cleared,” he said.

Cold room manager Amrutlal Joshi said that of the four chambers, “chamber No 1 and 2 are safe with no damage seen, but chambers No 3 and 4 are partly affected. We have registered a complaint against operator Pratapbhai Chandubhai Parmar who is now being questioned by police.”

Devaji Ramji Mali of Ranpura village said: “We had been asking the APMC for the past one week to show our stocks but they refused on one pretext or the other. On Saturday we were allowed to look at our damaged consignment, which is now completely lost.”

A trader who has stored 15,000 bags said on condition of anonymity: “The damage is obviously due to the APMC’s negligence.”

The Deesa output this year was 34,000 kg a hectare, up from last year’s 28,000 kg, while the area under cultivation was up from 21,915 hectares to 33,433, said district agricultural officer K.D. Kag.

“As a result all the 68 cold storages in Deesa are packed to their capacity,” he said.

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