Bengal farmers consider suicide as cold storage options dry up for potato crop
Acute shortage in cold storage capacity has put potato farmers in great distress in West Bengal, which is the second largest producers of the tuber in the country after Uttar Pradesh. The situation, if not managed soon, may cause severe rural level socio-economic crisis in many districts of the state.
As the potato sowing and reaping timeline goes, farmers start loading their produce at cold storages during March by paying an advance to procure storage permit known as ‘bond.’ The stock starts coming out of storage from May onward depending upon market demand and pricing level.
Inadequacy of cold storage space has always remained a major issue to influence return from potato farming. But, due to high production, the gap between demand and actual storage space has become too wide this year making the situation critical across the state.
According to Patit Pawan Dey, president of West Bengal Cold Storage Association, "against total storage capacity of around 60 lakh metric tonne (mt) with around 575 cold storages, our estimated production this year is around 110 – 115 lakh mt."
Owing to the situation, “I may need to throw out my entire production as arranging bond has become too difficult,” said Milan Das a ground level farmer at Dhupguri, one of the highest potato yielding zone in northern Bengal. The picture is almost same in all potato producing districts.
At the same time, local market ground level price of different varieties has also come down to Rs 4 a kg at some places while, “our production cost is over Rs 5 per kg,” said Das.
Agriculture department officials assured, “The state Government has already intervened into the issue to bring the situation under control.”
But, “They cannot increase storage capacity overnight. Thus, after investing almost everything on this, now as a penniless man, I have no option other than committing suicide,” said Jiban Das a potato farmer in Coochbehar with around 10 tonne of his produce lying in field under the open sky.