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WB move to ban potato exports will shoot up prices further

Potato prices are expected to remain high, even as states like West Bengal resorting to measures like sealing inter-state borders to bring down the prices.

West Bengal government has temporarily allowed exports but if it stops, prices every where will shot up as the neighboring states will start importing potatoes from Uttar Pradesh and that will disrupt potato supply in the country.

Together these two states UP and WB produces 60% of potato crop.

Prices of potato has risen by more than 20% in the last one month, with the current prices hovering between Rs 25-40 per kg in the retail market across India.

According to traders, while potato production in UP is down by 10-20%, that in West Bengal is low by 20%. The two states account for nearly 60% of the country’s total potato production. In Bihar, which is the third largest potato producing state after UP and West Bengal, too potato production is down by nearly 10%.

UP produces about 15 million tonnes, West Bengal produces 12 million tones of potatoes every year. Nearly 65% of West Bengal’s total potato production is consumed outside the state.

In addition, an early crop of potato, harvested during August-September in southern India, is down by nearly 50%, according traders. The autumn crop accounts for nearly 20% of the total potato production.

“This year, potato crop is low by 20% in UP due to untimely rains,” said Ajit Shah, president, Horticulture Exporters Association.

“Potatoes are expected to remain high between Rs 25-30 kg in the near future as the overall production is low,” said Sukumar Samanta, a potato trader-based in West Bengal.

On August 5, the West Bengal government sealed the state’s borders for shipment of potatoes, while instructing traders to sell the commodity at no more than Rs 14 per kg.

Howevver, with potato traders in West Bengal threatening a three-day strike on government’s move, the state government yesterday allowed sending 5000 tonnes of potatoes per day for seven days to the neighboring states.

Last week, potato prices in Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam and Chattisgarh touched as high as Rs 40 per kg, with West Bengal not allowing exports to the states. Nearly 70% of the demand in the eastern states are met by West Bengal, while the rest by UP.

However, with supplies from UP nearly zero this year, potato prices in the states had shot up abruptly when the West Bengal government stopped the supply.

West Bengal sells potatoes worth nearly Rs 3000 crore every year to the neaighbouring states. In November 2013, the West Bengal government for the first time had put a restriction on the inter-state movement of potato.


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