Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Aug 7:
With the price of potato shooting up suddenly amid the flood situation and West Bengal Government keeping a strict vigil on transportation of potato beyond its borders, the Odisha Food Supply and Consumer Welfare (FS&CW) department today said it would ensure adequate supply of the staple tuber through the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed).
Besides, it has decided to provide potato to consumers at an affordable price through the Maitree outlets.
The decision of the West Bengal government to strictly regulate export of potato to other states has had an immediate effect with the number of potato laden trucks coming to Odisha decreasing drastically. The short supply has resulted in a 75% hike in the retail price of the tuber, forcing a panicky Odisha government to initiate fresh talks with its West Bengal counterpart.
The price of the essential commodity has shot up to Rs 35 a kg in the retail market, which was available for Rs 19-20 just two days ago.
Panic buying of potato has begun across the state and this has given an opportunity to unscrupulous traders to hoard potato as well as jack up its prices, punching a big hole in the already strained pocket of the common man.
“Some unscrupulous traders have caused the artificial price rise to take advantage of the scarcity and the flood situation. We are conducting raid to nab the hoarders,” said an officer of supply department.
According to the data made available by the Civil Supplies department, while Odisha requires 912.859 thousand tonnes of potatoes per year, it produces no more than 201.05 thousand tonnes – a shortfall of 711.854 thousand tonnes which has to be made with imports from outside, primarily the neighbouring state of West Bengal.
“About 200 trucks have been stuck at the Sunakania check gate on the Odisha-West Bengal border. Our chief secretary has also talked with West Bengal chief secretary to release the potato-laden trucks to Odisha. I hope the problem will be over soon,” the FS&CW minister Sanjay Dasburma told reporters today.
He also said NAFED has been asked to provide potato from Kanpur to meet the demand of people in the state.
Meanwhile, Suresh Kumar Vashishth, managing director, Odisha State Civil Supplies Corporation (OSCSC) today wrote a letter to Branch Manager, NAFED-Bhubaneswar to procure 19 trucks of potato initially for six prime cities in the state.
It has urged NAFED to despatch 3040 quintals of potato for Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Puri, Rourkela and Sambalpur. However, there is no such provision for the rural areas.
Sudhakar Panda, secretary of Odisha Byabasayi Mahasangh said the West Bengal government is not releasing the potato-laden trucks resulting in massive shortage and sudden increase in the price of the kitchen essential.
Denying that there is any unscrupulous hoarding by vendors, he said the stock of the perishable item has already been exhausted in the Mandis and that is a matter of concern.