Falling production of potatoes in other parts of the country this year has proved to be a windfall for farmers of Lahaul and Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh, as per a news report by IANS. The landlocked Lahaul valley is known for producing disease-free seed potatoes with a major chunk of the crop being procured by potato-growing states like West Bengal, Bihar and Karnataka. This time, a large number of traders, especially from northern India, have also begun procuring the Lahaul potatoes for consumption purposes.
‘There is hardly any difference in taste and quality between seed and table potatoes,’ state agriculture deputy director J.S. Chauhan told IANS, attributing the rise in demand to the overall decline in production in the country. According to him, farmers from West Bengal, Bihar and Karnataka prefer to buy seed potatoes from Lahaul as the region is a virus-free zone due to the high altitude and absence of rain in summer.
But this time, said Nawang Bodh, managing director of the Manali-based Lahaul Seed Potato Growers Cooperative that is run by farmers, traders from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh too have started procuring Lahaul potatoes for consumption.
Earlier, the bulk of the produce went for seed purposes only.
‘Potatoes are fetching record prices, between Rs.2,000 and Rs.2,400 per quintal, which is almost double last year’s rates,’ Bodh told. Lahaul Valley is known for producing pest-resistant Kufri Chandramukhi and Kufri Jyoti varieties. The economy of this tribal district is highly dependent on the potato business, with around 2,000 farmers cultivating it over 900 hectares.