The ban imposed by the Pakistan government on the import of perishable goods from India in November 2016 has hit Punjab's potato growers, who are not able to sell their produce in Afghanistan and Middle East countries.
The potato growers and traders have appealed to the state government to take up the matter with the Union government to save them from losses.
After cotton and rice crop failure, the Punjab farmers are now bracing for the potato glut which has resulted in a sharp fall in the tuber wholesale prices. Despite the bumper crop, state's potato growers are spending sleepless nights due to the ban imposed by the neighbouring country.
The potato growers are being compelled to sell their bumper crop at dirt cheap prices. Keeping in view the assurances given by the previous government that it will buy the crop at Rs 5 per kg, the state farmers had sown more crop but the prices fell as the buyers are missing.
An estimated 2.2 million tonnes of potato crop is expected to be produced this year. Chandigarh's vegetable market is packed with potato bags lying unsold from last fortnight. The commission agents have now refused to buy the crop from the farmers as the wholesale prices dipped as low as Rs 1.
"The farmers are facing a loss following a glut. Nobody is buying potatoes. We are selling quality potatoes at Rs 2 to 2.5 per kg. Last year, the price per kg was more than double," says Pawan Kumar, a sector 26-based retailer.
Another retailer Desh Raj says the potato crop is rotting up in the market as there are no buyers.
The farmers spend whole day with trucks or tractors with potatoes in the market and then return with a heavy heart to their homes.
"There are no buyers. Despite a bumper crop, the buyers are missing. The growers are not even getting the investments," Raj adds.
A potato farmer from Dera Bassi area, Ramandeep Singh said the growers are facing a loss of Rs 20,000 per acre as the prices fell beyond imagination. "I am being offered Rs 1.25 to Rs 1.50 per kg. I invested Rs 35,000 per acre and will be getting around Rs 15,000. I am incurring a loss of Rs 20,000 per acre. Nobody is there to help us. The previous government had promised a market price of Rs 5 per kg but the new government has yet to bail us out," Singh says.
The potato growers have now appealed the state government to help them export their crop as Punjab potatoes are in big demand in Russia and the Middle East.