Banks to provide 3-year relief to West Bengal potato farmers

December 17th, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Dec 17 (IANS) Public sector banks have agreed to provide a three-year moratorium to potato farmers in West Bengal, permitting them temporary suspension of loan repayments as prices have fallen following bumper production, the state agriculture minister said here Wednesday.”The banks have agreed to the relief requested by us which includes extending the repayment period of loans, particularly of those loans which were supposed to have been paid off by November,” Agriculture Minister Naren De told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here.

However, De could not say what was the total amount of loan that has been restructured.

“The relief by the banks coupled with the transport subsidy announced by the government would help potato farmers burdened with excess crop,” he said.

The state government in November announced a package to help potato farmers and traders, which includes a commitment to buy 80,000 tonnes of potato directly from farmers, a 20 percent transport subsidy to push exports to other states, and a Rs.310-million cold storage rent subsidy.

West Bengal has seen a production 8.8 million tonnes of potato in 2007-08 (April-March), 25 percent more than 2006-07 output.

Incidentally, during the same period, the countries to which India exports potatoes also saw bumper production. “Exports suffered as a result,” De said.

He said in 2008-09 potato production was likely to drop as many farmers have shifted to other crops following last year’s bumper yield.

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