Farmers across Uttar Pradesh's potato belt, stretching from Kanpur to Agra, who were earlier happy with the record potato crop, are now faced with new challenges, like recovering the cost of production. Many farmers took loans to cultivate potato during the year and while farmers are paying the price of stocking the crop at cold storage facilities, the price of the staple has touched a record low of Rs 300 to Rs 350 per quintal at all major wholesale markets.
In Uttar Pradesh the 2008 potato crop is estimated to be around 14 million tonne against an average of 10 million tonne, while 25 million tonne is estimated from across the country. The Financial Express spoke to farmers from the potato-growing region in Agra to assess the situation. Due to better price realisation in 2007 Rustom Singh, who cultivated potatoes over 100 acres, had an output of more than 15,000 quintal. Hoping for higher returns, he also grew potatoes on land obtained on rent. However, due to prevailing low prices he has barely managed to recover his investment. He is also unhappy with the fact that the cold storage owners have increased rates by more than 20 per cent this year. Currently, the cold storage owners at Agra, Hathras, Kanpur and Meerut have increased the rate to Rs 110 per quintal from last year's Rs 90 - Rs 95 per quintal.
Farmers have been demanding the government to provide some kind of financial assistance to the farmers who have been hit by the fall in prices. They have also demanded a revoking of the futures trading ban imposed by the government in May 2008.
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