Cost of potato production has significantly gone up in West Bengal this season as more than half of the required seed-potato came from Punjab at a much higher price of Rs 10,000 per quintal. In the previous season, seeds were available at Rs 4,000 per quintal on an average.
Seeds from Punjab were required as Bengal’s production were low at 8.5 million tonne last year, against the capacity to produce 11.5 MT from 4.6 lakh hectare. This forced the state to import potatoes from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka to meet the demand, jacking up prices at the retail level (up to Rs 45 a kg) and also leaving very little of the tuber crop for getting transformed into seeds.
Seeds, which make more than 60% of the cost of potato production, will make the cost of harvest higher at Rs 1-1.2 lakh an acre. The increased cost is restraining farmers from cultivating potatoes, resulting in an estimated 10-12% lower supply this year, Dibakar Sinha, a farmer and trader from Gumpala in Hooghly said. “Prices at both the farm gate and retail levels during the season and beyond will virtually be determined by external forces”, he said.
Around 6 quintal of tuber seeds costing Rs 60,000 will be required this year to cultivate an acre of land.
Patit Paban Dey, chairman, West Bengal Cold Storage Association, said there has been 5-10% more sowing this season compared to the last season. If the weather remains conducive for cultivation, West Bengal will get a standard production of 10 million tonne, easing supplies as well as softening prices.
Potato prices, which have been hovering between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 per quintal across the country for quite some time, have already started softening. “Prices have already decreased by Rs 60 per quintal and this is expected to go down further. But much depends on the weather and the harvest to determine prices this season,” Dey said.
Considering cost of production at Rs 1 lakh per acre, including seed, irrigation, fertiliser and labour, cost price of potato at the farm gate is estimated at Rs 10 a kg this season.
Production of 10 MT will stabilise prices somewhere at Rs 15-16 a kg at the retail level, compared to Rs 20-22 a kg last season. Prices are not expected to climb above Rs 35 a kg beyond the season, much below the current price of Rs 43-45 a kg, provided there is no hoarding of the crop, a trader said.