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State stares at fresh potato crisis

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Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, Dec 19:

potato

Two months after a potato crisis that saw its prices to a staggering Rs 60 per kg, the state is bracing for a crisis as the West Bengal government has again clamped down on the supply of the]is kitchen essential after meeting the promised quota of one lakh tonnes to the state.

The decision of the West Bengal government has had an immediate effect with the number of potato laden trucks coming to Odisha decreasing drastically in the last three-four days. The short supply has resulted in a 42% hike in the retail price of the tuber, forcing a panicky Odisha government to initiate fresh talks with its West Bengal counterpart.

Panic buying of potato has begun in right earnest in the state. This has given an opportunity to unscrupulous traders to hoard potato as well as jack up its prices, pinching a hole in the already strained pocket of the common man.

According to sources, the West Bengal government had agreed to supply one lakh tonnes of potato to Odisha after the state faced a potato crisis in October-November.

Ironically, even as the state is grappling with the fresh potato crisis, the Horticulture department of the state government will be holding a workshop on ‘Road map for potato in Odisha’ at the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) on Friday, where about 100 delegates/scientists will participate.

“The West Bengal government had fulfilled its promised and supplied one lakh tonnes of potato by 16 December. But having met its part of the agreement, it has stopped the supply of the essential commodity again and has even stopped the 400 potato laden trucks at the state border,” said Sudhakar Panda, secretary of Odisha Byabasayi Mahasangh.

Panda said the state government had been requested to take immediate measures before the shortage leads to a crisis. He warned that if the government failed to take immediate steps, it will soon turn into a crisis as there is no potato in cold storages, which in any case, are few in number.

According to market watchers, potato is selling at Rs 22-24 a kg in the capital city now as against Rs 15-17 a kg just four days ago. The wholesale price of the tuber has reached Rs 1, 700 per quintal from just Rs 1200 per quintal only a few days ago.

The government received 13 potato trucks on Tuesday, eight on Wednesday and 24 today.

However, the state government maintained that there would be no short supply of potato as it is making all out efforts to meet the demand of consumers. “We have received 24 trucks of potato today and there will be no problem for the people,” said Prabhakar Rout, deputy director of food and civil supplies 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 up with imports from outside, primarily the neighbouring state of West Bengal.

The state figures, as in most other things, at the very bottom of the list with a share of no more than 0.48% in the total potato production in the country.

It is to be noted that the potato crisis had given enough opportunities to the opposition Congress and BJP to train their guns to the state government for its complete failure to meet the needs of the people.