Monday, June 1, 2015

Potato Mission Raises Rotten Stink

The New Indian Express, Bhubaneswar, June 1, 2015
SAMBALPUR:Potato growers of Western Odisha have been left in the lurch with the State Government failing to keep its promise to procure their produce through its agencies.
The Odisha Government launched Potato Mission from this financial year after West Bengal Government stopped inter-State trade of tuber. The ban imposed by the neighbouring State led to scarcity of potatoes and escalation of prices in Odisha.
Under the Mission, State Government had planned to maintain buffer stock to deal with short-term scarcity and set a target to bring 60,000 hectares of land under potato cultivation by 2017-18. The Government had also committed to provide capital subsidy for new cold storage as per Agricultural Policy of 2013.
But, all the promises fell flat as the agencies are yet to procure the stock leading to apprehension among the farmers that they would have to incur huge loss as their produce, mostly stocked in the open, rots in absence of cold storage facility.
Protesting non-procurement of potato, the growers of Bargarh district dumped a truck-load of potato outside the chamber of the Collector in March. About 632 farmers of four blocks of the district had cultivated potato on 550 acres of land on the direction of the administration which had set a production target of 4,000 tonne.
Similarly, on April 20 potato growers of Sambalpur district stacked potato bags in the office of Deputy Director, Horticulture. Potato was cultivated in over 1800 hectares of land in the district and the yield was about 27,000 tonne. Here too, there were no takers.
Markfed, which was entrusted to procure potatoes, vanished from the scene after procuring a minuscule part of the target.
With no cold storage or platform to sell their produce, the farmers resorted to distress sale to avoid loss. The tuber was sold for Rs  two to Rs  four a kg depending on the size of the tuber.
Though Sambalpur and Bargarh districts contribute substantially to vegetable production in the State, no cold storage has been established even two years after the agricultural policy was announced in 2013.
Take the case of Nuagaon block in Sundargarh district where capsicum is grown in abundance. Though a cold storage was developed two years back, it awaits operation leaving the farmers at the mercy of traders.
Deputy Director, Horticulture, Kalahandi, Lingraj Acharya said potato was cultivated in 18 hectares in the district and the yield was 270 tonne. However, 60 per cent of the yield was procured by a private trader from Dharamgarh who has stocked it in a cold storage in Raipur.

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