Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Prices of potato that have turned 'hot' last week in Odisha will cool down by the New Year Day. The spike in Odisha is attributed to a sharp dip in arrivals from West Bengal as the entire potato stock in store houses there were offloaded much earlier this year than in the normal course.

In Bhubaneswar, the wholesale prices of the tuber root have risen by 153 per cent as on December 23 vis-a-vis last year. The average wholesale prices today in the city stood at Rs 16.90/kg compared to Rs 6.66/kg in 2018.

This spike in prices is attributed to nearly 43 per cent dip in arrivals (potato stock variety) to the city. The arrivals today stood at 5,605 tonnes on Monday compared to 9,825 tonnes a year ago (2018). Fresh stock of the tuber vegetable hasn't arrived to Bhubaneswar till date.

Why a big dip noticed in arrivals? As per a recent report of West Bengal Cold Storage Association,  the production of tuber root vegetable in West Bengal this year has been 90-95 lakh tonnes (LT) against 100 LT in 2018.  A total of 66 LT were stocked in cold store houses. As per the norm, by mid-December, nearly 88-90 per cent potato stocks were to be offloaded.

But owing to greater demand from southern states like Andhra Pradesh during October - November, the whole of the stocked potatoes in West Bengal were offloaded. However, harvesting of potatoes has begun and the prices will normalise by December end, the report said.

Besides, potatoes from UP, the largest producer in country, will also hit the markets by December end. The arrivals have been delayed owing to rains recently due to western disturbance. It needs reminding here that harvesting of potatoes were done in dry season only. Because, moisture content will affect potato's shelf-life in store houses.

While UP will witness lower potato production to the tune of 2 LT in 2018-19, overall production in country has been pegged higher at 530.27 LT in 2018-19 vis-a-vis 513.10 LT in 2017-18, revealed the 3rd estimates of 2018-19.

Following interplay of a host of factors, market watchers say the staple tuber food will not become  a 'hot potato', unlike the onion tearjerker.

A look at wholesale prices of potato across the State shows the prices today hovered between a high of Rs 24.62/kg in Cuttack markets and the minimum rate of Rs 15/kg in Keonjhar. The average wholesale price for the State is estimated at Rs 20.12/kg, revealed an APMC report.

The footnote here is, despite launch of a Potato Mission with much fanfare, the potato production in Odisha in 2018-19 is down by a high of 8000 tonnes. And Odisha as usual depended on West Bengal for supply of potato.