Punjab potato growers to dump crop in Jalandhar



Jalandhar: If potato growers of Punjab have their way, the streets of Jalandhar could soon resemble a giant dump yard. Reason? They have threatened to dump their bumper produce in the city on Thursday if the state government fails to look into their problems.

The potato growers have been forced to announce dumping of their produce with the prices hitting an all time low of Re 1 per kg and farmers saying that growing potato costs them at least Rs 5 per kg due to increased farming input costs.

"This time of the year, potatoes sell for Rs 8-9 per kg. There is a glut this year due to a bumper crop and the price is between Rs 1-1.50 per kg. It is a major loss to the potato growers. The government is doing nothing," potato growers association president JS Sangha said.

Though the state government Sunday announced a freight subsidy of 50 paise per kg for transportation within the country and Rs 1.50 for export, potato growers say it is "too meagre".

"The subsidy announced by the government is too less. This is a cruel joke. We have rejected that. We will hold a meeting today (Monday) to decide our next course. Till then, our announcement to dump the potato crop on the streets of Jalandhar stands," Sangha said.

In 2000, potato growers had faced a similar situation and had dumped hundreds of tonnes of potatoes on the streets of Jalandhar, 150 km from state capital Chandigarh.

Said a spokesperson of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's office in Chandigar: "The Chief Minister has given a nod to a proposal mooted by MARKFED (the nodal agency for the export of potatoes) and cleared the file in this regard.

"The government has decided to immediately release freight subsidy from the Rural Development Fund to ensure smooth, prompt and hassle free interstate movement as well as to accelerate the export of potatoes."

The Chief Minister has directed the Punjab Rural Development Board to release a sum of Rs 2 crore to enable the freight subsidy.

Sangha pointed out that the problem for potato growers is not only the thousands of tonnes of the new crop this year but also the previous crop lying in cold storages across Punjab.

"Over 40 lakh (gunny) bags of potato are lying in cold storages. The new and old potatoes are fetching no rate in the market," Sangha said.

Harmilap Singh, a potato grower, said: "We have no option but to dump our potatoes on Jalandhar streets to wake up this government. How can the government let down farmers?"

However, in a symbolic gesture some farmers have started distributing potatoes free of cost to people. "What is the use of wasting the crop. We are giving it free also," farmer Baldev Singh said.

Potato is grown on nearly 80,000 hectares of land in Punjab, primarily in the Doaba belt -- area between Sutlej and Beas rivers that comprises of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur districts.

The humble commodity is also grown in Moga, Ludhiana, Bathinda and Amritsar. The annual output of potato is over 20 lakh tonnes.

IANS