Manali: Cultivation of Himachal Pradesh`s prized seed potato, grown in the cold deserts of the Lahaul Valley, is losing its charm but its returns has doubled this season compared to previous years, say agriculture experts.
The rates have been lucrative as a large quantity of potatoes, meant for cultivating fresh crops, headed to northern India for consumption.
"The table potato sold at Rs.20 to Rs.22 per kg in the wholesale markets compared to Rs.8 to Rs.10 kg last year," director agriculture J.C. Rana said.
"The demand from Gujarat, West Bengal and Uttarakhand for cultivation was good. Now only 25 to 30 percent of the crop is left," Amar Chand Dogra, managing director of the Lahaul Seed Potato Growers Cooperative Marketing Ltd, which is based here, said.
District Agriculture Officer V.K. Chaudhary said the valley has produced 7,815 tonnes of potatoes this year against 10,500 tonnes last year.
He said though the potato crop was bumper this year, there was a decline in its cultivation. Farmers had switched over to cultivation of off-season remunerative vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas and turnip.
"Poor potato crop in the past two years mainly encouraged the farmers to go for vegetable cultivation."
As per state agriculture department estimates, there has been a 20 percent decline in the area under potato cultivation in Lahaul Valley compared to last year.
Dogra said the group, with 2,100 members, has procured 32,000 bags of 50 kg each of Kufri Jyoti and 8,000 bags of Kufri Chandramukhi.
The marketing society is selling a quintal (100 kg) of Kufri Jyoti and Kufri Chandramukhi from Rs.3,000 to Rs.3,300.