“In the past two years distress sale had hit potato growers in January when arrivals from major potato growing states usually increase. But this year heavy rains have affected sowing and harvesting for the entire season,” said Jang Bahadur Singh Sangha, Punjab-based potato grower.
He said fresh potato is selling at wholesale rates of Rs 12-14 per kg.
Potato prices usually plummet in India by January as fresh arrivals gather pace in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal and Haryana. Retail prices of potato are Rs 20-30 per kg currently in different parts of the country due to 60-70% above normal rainfall which has slowed crop arrivals in mandis. The arrivals in the largest potato markets, including Azadpur mandi in Delhi and Farrukhabad in UP, were 25% and 7% lower year-on-year respectively between December 1, 2019 and January 15 this year, as per spot market data of Agmark.
Potato traders attributed the higher prices to the mismatch in demand and supply. “Last year the harvest had begun by December 20 in West Bengal but this year it commenced after January 7 due to rains,” said Patit Paban De, former president of the West Bengal Cold Storage Association.
De allayed apprehensions of hoarding causing a spike in prices. “Potato supply directly goes from farmers to retailers between December and April, and comes to cold stores after May,” he said. He said wholesale prices are expected to remain 20% higher year-on-year because of the adverse weather conditions.
Experts said the increase in the price of other vegetables had also boosted demand for the tuber. “There is a 10% increase in demand than usual for potato but the prices are higher prices mainly due to rains,” said De.
Arvind Aggarwal, president, Cold Storage Associations of Uttar Pradesh, said: “Rains have affected the potato season from the beginning this time. Heavy rains in November, December and January are now buttressing prices as the harvest remains affected across UP.”
A few sunny days and rains in recent months further affected the yield, he said.
Wholesale tuber prices fell from Rs 16-20 per kg in November after fresh harvest in UP, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.