Marketing of Potato

    • Although potato is a seasonal crop, taking into account the country as a whole with different agro-climatic conditions, harvesting time is so spread out in good parts as to make fresh potatoes available all through the year.
    • Thus while the hill crop is harvested usually during July to September, potato is being sown in the plains which becomes available for consumption over November to May.
    • Infact the bulk of the potato crop in plain is harvested from January to March.
    • As potato undergoes a period of 2-3 months dormancy, it is freely available over 3-4 months with ordinary storage in dark and well aerated godowns.
    • Being a perishable item, it has to be scientifically preserved to ensure ready and adequate availability the year, with equal ease and at reasonable prices.
    • The growth and development of the cold storage industry is inter-linked with the cultivation of potatoes.
    • In fact, 90 percent of the storage space in existing cold storages in Punjab is utilised for potato only.
    • It is also important to note that with the promotion of cold storage both the areas under cultivation of potatoes as well as the total production have considerably increased.
    • The growers of potato have succeeded in augmenting the production sizably through the application of scientific innovations and techniques along with bringing additional acreage under potato.
    • Presently, there is shortage of available storage capacity as compared to the actual production.
    • If this situation is allowed to continue for long, it might prove a serious disincentive for potato growers.
    • This seriously depresses the market prices during the post-harvest season in the year of good production (for want of adequate storage facilities and consequently lead to wastage of the surplus produce).
    • Recurrence of excess supplies every 4-5 year is rather a common phenomenon and farmers during distress years, even plough back the produce in the field rather than invest in harvesting the produce.
    • The problem would be solved with the development of additional storage facilities because potato is the only crop which is unique, short duration with high productively levels.

    There is an urgent need to take other steps to regularize the marketing of potato such as

    Potato as a staple dietary food

    • Adopt measures to boost potato consumption. The science and research institutes should come forward to acquaint the consumers / peoples to look at potato as a basic staple food at par with wheat, rice or other cereals rather than to its present day restricted use as a vegetable crop. They should be educated as to how it can partially replace rice and wheat without reducing the nutritional or dietary caloric value. At present there is misconception in vast section of the society regarding the harmful effects of consumption of potatoes such as obesity. This is not true if it is consumed in boiled form without frying rather than in fixed form.
    • Promote usage of potato and its byproducts as supplementary cheap dietary substitutes.
    • The government should also add potato as a staple food item along with wheat and rice in the "food for work program" launched in the event of flood, droughts, famines and other calamity relief program.
    • The movement of potatoes on a priority basis should be arranged within the country so that the supply lines can be maintained continuously without any hindrance. It is because of the tropical character of our climatic conditions that the crop is likely to get spoiled if allowed to remain undelivered for long in air-tight wagons. In this way, risk of damage from production centre / storage to consumer will be reduced during transit.
    • Special awards on discovery of new use/ application of potato for domestic as well as industrial purposes on an economic basis be instituted to bring shifts in its industrial and domestic use domains.
    • There is an urgent need to change the food habit of Indians. How consumption of potato is incorporated in their daily diet needs to be explored and promoted vigorously.
    • Dehydration of potato is advantageous because it is cheaper, can be done at the level of individual farming families and adds value to the product. Moreover, solar energy is abundant, naturally available and can be used for dehydration. Dehydrated potato products are cheap and within the reach of common man. It will also check the problem of glut in the market.

    Potato Processing

    • Potato processing is the only alternative to regularize its marketing. It can be used in the following ways
    • Flakes, granules and dehydrated dish etc can be formed.
    • Potato flour can be prepared and used in the baking industry, in baby food and as a thickner and flavouring agent in soups and sauces.
    • Potato can be cooked and eaten as boiled, fried, roasted, toasted, baked or steamed and there is a need to create awareness in masses to adopt its consumption in varieded forms.
    • Potato is used for chips, french fries flakes and granules formation.
    • Potato contains about 80 per cent water and 20 percent dry matter. A major portion of dry matter is starch. Carbohydrates consisting of starch and sugar constitute 16 pecent on fresh weight basis. Crude protein content is 2 percent and the fat content is very low at 0.1 percent. Thus potato being wholesome and nutritious food needs to be encouraged for its use in the daily diet at extensive scale as well as starch and alcohol industry.
    • The per capita consumption of potatoes in Europe is 120.6 kg while in India it is only 14.8 kg, one of the lowest in the world. Thus there is great scope for increasing potato consumption in the country.
    • It is the time to realize the importance of Potato as a food crop which has a tremendous potential to become a staple food in India.

    Export potential of potato

    • Export value of potato per unit area is the highest among the agriculture commodities among the Middle Asian and South East Asian countries. India is in a most advantageous position to organize a meaningful export program of potato on account of-
    • With rise in yields and assured channels of marketing the produce, the production costs can be substantially reduced and brought to competitive level without the international price.
    • The production technology available in India is capable to make potato cultivation more economical if pursued in a mission mode. While many Afro-Asian countries are lagging behind in the basic production technology, knowhow and development program.
    • The South Asian countries like Iraq, Kuwait, Hong-Kong, Singapore and Malaysia are exclusively dependent on import. These countries have a huge demand for potato and is being mostly fulfilled by the far-off European countries like the Netherlands. India can fulfill this requirement and the trade can be expanded enormously.
    • In recent years, there has been a shift in the consumer preference in European countries and during winter and spring season new potatoes are in demand. The advantage in organising trade in new potatoes is in favour of India. Here, new potatoes can be produced at a time when the demand in European countries are the highest on account of prevalence of different agro-ecological conditions.
    • Like-wise, there also exists a tremendous market in the Middle-East and Gulf region and India can easily meet this demand on a year round basis.
    • At present the seed potato demand in many a countries in the neighborhood is also met exclusively from the fresh supplies of seed stock from Netherlands and European countries. This can also be exploited as an export avenue. With the present advances in seed production technique, farmers / private sector can organise seed production and explore the lucrative seed market by offering high quality seed at competitive prices.
    • To avoid the marketing problem of potato within the country and in the surrounding countries where potato is consumed at a large scale, there is an urgent need to strengthen the market intelligence system.
    • This will provide advance knowledge of total production of potato in order to plan an appropriate strategy for fuller utilization of potato crop and ensure remunerative returns to the growers.
    • Moreover, research should be conducted on utilization of sub-standard potatoes e.g. for the production of microbial protein, silage and ethanol. Similarly, feasibility studies should be conducted for setting up a few modern potato-processing units to manufacture potato sticks, chips, mashed potato etc. for export markets.
    • In developing countries, there is a knowledge gap between research workers and farmers.
    • The knowledge gap is mainly due to inadequate realization of proper training.
    • Facilities available at international, national and institutional level must be utilized fully to impart adequate training to workers at all levels especially those involved in the transfer of appropriate technology with regard to cultivation, production, preservation and marketing of potato.