New Delhi: Decreased supplies of potatoes for the past many months at the Azadpur fruits and vegetable market here and an increased demand in the coming Navratri festive season are expected to keep the prices of the humble staple on the higher side in the near future.
Increased prices in the coming weeks are thus sure to leave a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of consumers, particularly those from the weaker sections who consume potatoes more when the other vegetables are costlier and hence beyond their reach. Similarly, those consuming potatoes during fasts on Navratri days will also bear the brunt of the higher prices.
It is only after the new crop is harvested and starts arriving in markets from December onwards that a fall in the prices of potatoes are expected to fall.
For the last few days, wholesale prices of potatoes are hovering between Rs 12 and Rs 51 per kg in Azadpur mandi while it retails for between Rs 40 and 50 per kg in the NCR. The special quality potatoes are priced even higher.
Rajendra Sharma, General Secretary of Azadpur Mandi Potato Onion Merchant Association (POMA), pointed out that those observing fast during the Navratri -- from October 17 to October 25 -- eat dishes made of potatoes and hence the increased demand.
Sharma claimed that prices of potatoes had increased due to decreased supplies. The potatoes arriving at Azadpur market had declined by nearly 40-50 per cent since last year, leading to over two-fold increase in the crops's retail prices.
In the hope of getting more prices, farmers have invested in potato cultivation despite inflation. Sowing of potatoes has started in north India.
According to Dr Manoj Kumar, Executive Director of Shimla's Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), during the Rabi season, the sowing of potatoes usually starts in late September and lasts till November. Harvesting of potatoes occurs between December and March.
However, traders said that the potato crop might start arriving in late November.
According to the second advance production data released by the Ministry of Agriculture, cultivation of potatoes in the country during 2019-20 was 513 lakh tonnes as against 501.9 lakh tonnes in 2018-19.
During the corona-induced lockdown, a decline in the consumption of vegetables was observed as hotels, restaurants, dhabas etc remained closed for 4-5 months.