Cost of potato production has gone up significantly in West Bengal this season as more than half of the required seed-potato came from Punjab at a much higher price of Rs 10,000 per quintal. In the previous season, seeds were available at Rs 4,000 per quintal on an average.
Last year, West Bengal’s production of potatoes was low at 8.5 million tonnes, against the capacity to produce 11.5 million tonnes from 4.6 lakh hectare of land.
This forced the state to import potatoes from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka to meet the demand, jacking up prices at the retail level (up to Rs 45 a kg).
Seeds, which make more than 60 per cent of the cost of potato production, will make the cost of harvest higher at Rs 1-1.2 lakh an acre. The increased cost is restraining farmers from cultivating potatoes, resulting in an estimated 10-12 per cent lower supply this year. Thus price of potatoes this season, at both the farm gate and retail level, will probably go very high.
Around 6 quintal of tuber seeds costing Rs 60,000 will be required this year to cultivate an acre of land. If the weather remains conducive for cultivation, West Bengal will get a standard production of 10 million tonnes.
Potato prices, which have been hovering between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 per quintal across the country for quite some time, have already started softening. Prices have decreased by Rs 60 per quintal and this is expected to go down further. But much depends on the weather and the harvest to determine prices this season.
Considering cost of production at Rs 1 lakh per acre, including seed, irrigation, fertiliser and labour, cost price of potato at the farm gate is estimated at Rs 10 a kg this season. Production of 10 million tonnes will stabilise prices somewhere at Rs 15-16 a kg at the retail level, compared to Rs 20-22 a kg last season.