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Potato prices generate heat in RS
Published on 5 Mar. 2010 11:26 PM IST
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The falling prices of potatoes generated much heat in the Rajya Sabha Friday with the opposition saying not enough was being done to protect the interests of farmers and the government saying it was ready to assist the states if they asked for help. “The only way out is for the state governments to start procuring potatoes from open market. On March 3, I had written to the state governments suggesting their market intervention and told them that the centre would bear up to 50% of the losses (cost of acquisition),” Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha. “Till now, we have not heard from any of the state governments,” he added. The response came on a question by Kusum Rai (Bharatiya Janata Party) on whether the government was aware that potato prices had fallen to Rs.1 and Rs.2 per kg in the wholesale markets when the new crop was ready with the farmers for sale. She wanted to know the steps the government was taking to ensure farmers sold their crops at a price higher than the production cost. The reply, however, failed to satisfy the opposition and the BJP MPs, led by Rudra Narayan Pany, loudly insisted that the government do more. Responding to a supplementary from Rai on the steps the government was taking to prevent distress sales by farmers, he said the West Bengal government had made two suggestions: exporting potatoes to Southeast Asia and the establishment of more cold storages. “The first will be difficult because Australia, the US and other countries also send their produce there and it is cheaper than ours. The second suggestion we are looking at,” Pawar replied. In this context, he noted that 107 cold storages had already been set up in various states against the 45 that had originally been proposed.

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