Dear CM Yogi, Why Turn a Blind Eye to The Woes of Potato Farmers?

Despite the huge demand, why are potato farmers forced to throw away their produce?

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In northern India, potato is colloquially known as the ‘king of vegetables’. Be it the urban population that eats french fries or the rural population that enjoys litti-chokha, potato is a staple food in India.

But despite its huge demand, why are potato farmers forced to throw their produce on the roads, near canals or in open fields? The Quint travelled to Agra, one of the highest cultivators of potato, to find out the reason.

At first, it looked like stones or balls. But then we realised that it is actually potato.
At first, it looked like stones or balls. But then we realised that it is actually potato.
(Photo: The Quint/Shadab Moizee)

No Takers for Tonnes of Potatoes

During our trip from Delhi to Agra, we saw many places where tonnes of potatoes were just lying on the ground. At first, we took it for stones or balls. But when we realised that it was actually potato, we were shocked that how can so much of it be thrown away when the prices are sky rocketing?

A potato farmer Lokendra Singh explains:

I have four acres of land on which I planted potato. The produce was good and I thought that I will repay the loan I took for my daughter’s wedding by selling the harvest. But the government is paying us just Rs 487 per quintal, while the farming costs us around Rs 600-700 per quintal and the rent of cold storage is another Rs 210 per quintal. Who will sell potato at such a huge loss?

The Game of Grading

In Uttar Pradesh, a potato is graded based on its size. There are the three grades. A potato with diameter of around 20-25 mm is graded ‘kirri’. A potato with diameter between 25 mm to 30 mm is called ‘gulla’. A potato with diameter between 35mm to 50 mm is called ‘bada’.

When Yogi Adityanath became the Chief Minister of UP in 2017, he had promised to buy over 1 lakh tonne of potato. But the government agencies are now saying that they will buy only the bada potato and that too at a rate of Rs 487 per quintal. As a result, the government has been able to buy only 13,000 tonnes, as opposed to the target of 1 lakh tonne.

What About the Promise That PM Modi Made to Farmers?

In 2014, in a speech delivered in Agra, Narendra Modi promised that when he comes to power, he will implement the recommendations made by Swaminathan Commission.

Before coming to power, Modi had promised us that he will implement the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission. That would mean that the farmers will be paid 1.5 times the cost of production. On the contrary, the Yogi government has reduced the cost by 50 percent.
Aamir, Secretary, Agra Potato Farmers Association

Southwest Uttar Pradesh is often referred to as the potato belt. According to Kisan Shakti Sangathan, over 80 percent of farmers in Aligarh, Mathura, Hathras, Agra, Firozabad, Etah, Etawah, Mainpuri, Kannauj and Farrukhabad rely on potato production for their income. Hence, the lower prices provided by the government affect almost the entire farming community in the region.

Video Producer: Anubhav Mishra
Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim and Vivek Gupta

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