Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Pipili, Mar 14:
Potato farmers of Pipili, Delang and Kanas blocks in Odisha’s Puri district are on agitation alleging dearth of cold store facilities to preserve their produce.
Agitated farmers are sitting on a dharna with bags of potatoes inside the premises of the Uttarayani Cooperative Cold Store at Satsankh demanding space for their produce at the cold store.
Farmers alleged discrimination by cold store authorities in keeping potatoes at the cold store. “We are not even getting a proper reply from the officials at the cold store. Large quantities of potatoes in bags have started to rot after lying under the sun for days,” said potato farmer Sarat Muduli.
“We are in great difficulty. For the last three days, we are waiting here with our potatoes. We have come here since last three days. The situation is completely chaotic here. Cold store officials have even misbehaved with us. They even switched off lights in the night leaving us here in the dark guarding our produce,” said another farmer Jitendra Parida telling his plight to the media.
The government had encouraged farmers in these blocks to go for potato crop in view of the potato crisis faced by the state last year.
Encouraged by the government and hopeful of a good earning, farmers had cultivated potato in more land in these blocks and have harvested a bumper crop. Interestingly, Pipili is the home constituency of Agriculture Minister Pradeep Maharathy.
On the other hand, cold store authorities have questioned what can they do in a situation when farmers are coming with 5000 bags a day while they are equipped for handling only 2500 bags in a day.
Cold store authorities, however, have a ready explanation for their failure to accept all the protato on offer.
“We have a capacity to handle 2, 500 bags of potatoes in a day. What can we do in a situation when farmers arrive with 5, 000 bags. We simply cannot handle that. That is the reason we have stopped receiving potatoes from today for three days in order to clear the stocks we have already received,” said Dharanidhar Sahu, an official of the cold store.
The state government’s tall talk of giving a big boost to potato production and enhancing storage facilities in the state after the prolonged crisis in supply last year has proved to be so much hot air for potato growers in the Agriculture Minister’s own constituency.