Processed potato: lucrative option for farmers

Written by Commodities Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 9 2008, 06:19am hrs
While there has been significant growth in the output of potato since Independence, the country lacks infrastructure to penetrate overseas processed vegetables markets, a senior official with the Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) on Monday said. Since 1949-50, there has been phenomenal increase in potato-grown area (547%), yield (267%) and output (146%), SK Pandey, director, CPRI, said. He said that the potato output is expected to be around 29 million tonne in 2008-09, against around 25 million tonnes achieved last year.

Stating that only around 2% of the total area under contract farming wasessential for processing, Pandey said that there was a huge market in the local as well as overseas markets for processed vegetables that needs to be tapped so that farmers would be able to realise the price potential. If the present upright trend in the processing industry continues, millions of marginal and small farmers can be connected to the emerging international market, Pandey said on the eve of the Global Potato Conference schedule to be held in New Delbhi from December 9-12.

The international conference is being organised in the backdrop of the Food and Agriculture Organisation declaration of 2008 as International Year of Potato which may provide answers to critical food security problems faced by large number of under-developed countries. With an aim to create awareness about the role that potato can play in world food security, CPRI in collaboration with the Indian Potato Association has planned to convene the conference.

More than 500 delegates from 25 countries are expected to participate in the conference, where issues pertaining to the expansion of potato output, processing and utilisation around the globe to meet challenges of food security under the current scenario of world agriculture would be discussed.

Use of improved seed, crop rotation, manuring through organic materials (crop residues, animal excreta, nitrogen- fixing legumes, green manure, off-farm organic residues), bio-fertilizers , mineral bearing rocks and management of pests and diseases through non-polluting substances like bio-pesticides are being currently applied for growing organic potato in the country, which has a huge export potential.

However, due to a bumper output at home, the prices of potato have been stable for the last few years. The retail price of potato has been in the range of Rs 6-9 per kg across the country during last two years, which has resulted in farmers losing money due to negative price realisation. During 2007-8, Uttar Pradesh produced about 14 million tonne of potato against an average of 10 million tonne, followed by West Bengal.