A cheaper alternative to the traditional wheat bhusa, aloo is being fed to the cows in gaushalas
Mohammad Alamgir, in the midst of a harvest-time market collapse, presents a rationale for distributing potatoes through the public distribution system by saying, “Gehoon nahi toh aloo hi sahi” (in the absence of wheat, why not offer potatoes?).
According to the secretary-general of the Agra-based potato farmers’ organization Aloo Utpadak Kisan Samiti, national authorities buy wheat and paddy at subsidized prices of Rs 2,125 and Rs 2,040 per quintal, respectively.
They can simply purchase potatoes from us for half as much and give them away without charge, just the way they do with both wheat and rice. It will make them less worried about running out of wheat and having less to sell because of hot temperatures. Alamgir asserts, “Poor people probably wouldn’t mind receiving aloo, which is as good and healthy as wheat.”
Potatoes are being sold wholesale for 400–450 rupees for every quintal in Agra. Even at this cost, you can only get the relatively large table potatoes, also known as chatta. The relatively small gulla (seed-grade) and kirri (baby) tubers are fetching “no cost,” claims Doongar Singh Chaudhary, the seller of a cold store at Khandauli near Agra, which is owned by Vaidyaji Sheetgrah Pvt. Ltd.
He identifies two reasons for the lack of involvement in purchasing a product. The initial harvest is a large supply from a newer type of potato that gives greater quantity in a shorter time. Farm owners in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra-Aligarh belt, which also includes Mathura, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Hathras, Etah, and Kasganj localities, have grown extensively Kufri Bahar, a wide range from Shimla’s Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) that provides 25-36 tonnage per hectare over 100-120 days.
Chaudhary thinks that this quarter, 30–35% of the land will be used to cultivate these varieties. This is up from 15% in 2021–22 and 0% roughly four years ago. “Kufri Bahar is planted between the middle and end of October and picked by the end of February. “You could plant these as late as November and then still pick them in February,” he explains.
Even though the two varieties can’t be stored for more than 3–4 months (unlike Kufri Bahar, which has tough skin and therefore can continue to remain in cold rooms at 2–5 degrees Celsius for 9–10 months), their increased output is going to flood the markets right now.
The tremendous carryover stocks from the produce the year before is the secondary problem that Chaudhary mentions. Potato farmers typically sell between 15 and 20 per cent of their produce immediately after harvest, which occurs between the middle of February and the middle of March. They put the remaining yield in cold storage to stop it from springing up and to allow for staggered sales all the way up until the end of November.
Those who own cold storage facilities can also profit from renting them out to vendors. We’ll lend them the money to buy and stock up at a rate of 11-18% per year if they put in, say, Rs 400-600 per quintal.
Benefit for farmers
There is no requirement for national authorities to visit mandis. They are able to obtain items and distribute them directly from the cold storage facilities. Producers and the industry as a whole will be protected if a guaranteed minimum price is established, according to Alamgir.