Spud price crash spurs panic

Spud price crash spurs panic

The unseasonal rains, the unusual variations in temperatures and the repeated pest attacks have reduced the yield in the current season.

But, the classical economics has been stood on its head, with reduced flow of the commodity not resulting in higher prices. The farmers have seen prices of their potato bags crashing at the APMC. Dull-eyed in despair, farmers watch as piles of harvested potato affected by the weather fluctuations and pests rot in fields. Most potatoes have turned green, making them unmarketable. Lack of moisture in the tubers have dried them up, says farmer Keshavappa.

Although market reports indicate that the price per quintal may rule at Rs 650 to Rs 700, the current price of Rs 400-500 has devastated farmers.

The economics of potato-growing, which promised huge profits some time ago, is now in a mess. Till recently, the prices of potato seeds needed for sowing an acre was around Rs 4,000, but currently the seeds for the same extent of land costs Rs 15,000. The quality of the seed is always dicey. If the seeds do not germinate satisfactorily, the entire crop is lost, says Veeranna, a farmer.

Adding to the woes of cultivators, input costs have skyrocketed. Chemical fertilisers have spiked steeply. SOP has shot up to Rs 900 a bag from Rs 100 earlier. A bag of DPA costs Rs 600 against Rs 185 some time ago. Pesticides, critical to the pest-vulnerable crop, too are highly expensive. A can of Rodomil costs Rs 1,500.

Labour costs too have risen. Over the years, the daily wage of a farmer worker has gone up to Rs 250 from Rs 25, but workers are difficult to find.

All that investment works out to Rs two lakh an acre. At Rs 500 per bag, the farmer can recover his cost. But with the price hovering around Rs 350, ruin is facing the farmer in the face.

The local farmers cannot afford to transport their produce to lucrative Bangalore, Madurai and Chennai as the transport cost is a deterrent. Hence, in times of price crash, farmers tend to stock potatoes, waiting for better days. Growers tend to dig pits in the ground, spray germicide such as Malathion and store potatoes up to two months. However, when it rains, the stored potatoes are lost.

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