Fast food… Oh really! Govt’s baffling reply to Potato price rise

Bhubaneswar: As some political parties have come forward to blame the State government for the artificial rise in prices of potatoes in State, the latter has served up a baffling response.

After the Samajwadi party attributed the failure of the potato mission in State as the reason behind the rise in price of the vegetable, the horticulture department has cited change in eating habits and popularity of fast food as the main causes behind the phenomenon.

In a letter to Principal secretary of Agriculture department in response to allegations of artificial hike in prices due to failure of Potato prices, the Horticulture department director noted that there is a gradual change “Due to gradual change in food habits the demand for potato consumption is increasing especially in urban areas for snacks and fast food where potatoes play a significant role in way of value addition in the processing sector.”

However, the traders’ association is not buying this argument. “I cannot accept the reason that the rise in potato prices is because of fast food.  The requirement of potato is still the same over the past five years,” said secretary of the Odisha Traders’ Association, Sudhakar Panda.

The state government started the potato mission in 2015-16 with a production target of 5,40,480 metric tonne for the year. However, not only the production target was missed but the total production did not even cross 3,00,000 metric tonne. In 2016-17 the target was 8, 22,470 metric ton but total production came in just above 3,00,000 metric tonne. The target set for this year is 11,24,720 metric tonne, which if achieved will eventually kill our dependency on West Bengal for potatoes as total demand in Odisha is pegged at 12,00,000 metric tonne.

Even the ruling-BJD seems unable to digest the horticulture department’s root cause analysis. “If the prices have increased then there could have been any supply constraints. If the horticulture department has done a study to find out that people are consuming more potatoes then it can be looked into but on the face of it looks like a flawed reason,” said BJD chief whip Anant Das.

“Such an argument is being made to cover up the incompetence of the State government. The demand for potato is not increasing because of urban areas as Odisha has more rural pockets,” said BJP’s Pratap Sarangi.