Rasulpur: The state government had launched a potato mission in 2015 with the aim to increase production of tuber in the state and overcome the shortage of potato, but the programme has gone haywire in Jajpur district due to lack of effective implementation.
According to reports, the potato mission was launched with multiple aims – to augment tuber production, ensure proper marketing facilities, and enhance the capacity of cold storages, production of quality potato seeds, credit linkage facilities for cultivation and storage and formation of potato farmers’ association.
This year, the farmers reportedly produced a surplus harvest and were expecting to earn a few bucks more but everything went wrong due to lack of foresight and shoddy implementation of the programme by the district Horticulture Department. The local intelligentsia and senior citizens claimed that the subsidy given to farmers could have been invested in buying the harvested tuber from the farmers and selling them to people at fair price.
The farmers’ plight is attributed to lack of adequate cold storages in the region to store the surplus harvest for sale in the next year as well as absence of government support. Till a month back, farmers were selling the crop at throwaway prices due to lack of storage facilities, but now they do not have any tuber to sell in the market at a time when the prices have gone up. A month back, a kg of potato was selling anything between Rs 5 and Rs 10 but its price has now gone up to Rs 30 per keg.
Lack of storage facilities has deprived them of earning some extra money on their produce. This has been happening every year and farmers are facing losses.
Reports said that over 150 farmers in Rasulpur and Dharmasala blocks in Jajpur district were supplied with 150 quintals of ‘Pokhran’ variety of seeds in the 2020-21 agricultural year for cultivation on 10 hectares (25 acres) in both the blocks. The farmers were used to cultivating Jyoti variety of seeds but instead were given Pokhran variety of seeds last year. However, seeing the surging prices of tuber in the market, farmers were prompted to use the Pokhran variety of seeds
Accordingly, the cultivation was to be done on five acres in Rasulpur block and 20 acres in Dharmasala block. The land for tuber cultivation was identified at Marjitapur, Jenapur, Kabatabandha, Choramuhan villages under Dharmasala block and in Rahamba, Bhotka, Rasulpur villages under Rasulpur block. The farmers were also given Rs 5.80 lakh as incentives on the basis of harvest from per hectare in two phases.
The Horticulture Department claimed that the harvest was as per expectation. Subhashree Priyadarshini, the assistant horticulture officer in Dharmasala block, said that the harvest was 200 quintals per hectare.
She, however, failed specify the exact quantity of harvest. Similarly, Jaydev Sit, the assistant horticulture officer in Rasulpur blockm also failed to ascertain the exact quantity of harvest of tuber in the block. The farmlands in Rasulpur block are well suited for tuber cultivation. However, farmers were allegedly given less quantity of seeds.
This is because the farmers had to face wilting of tuber crop in some places, while rotting of tuber was also reported from many other places. Farmers planning to sell tubers during the price rise kept the tuber in the ground without harvesting them. However, the entire crop left in the field perished. The department also failed to identify the farmers those who stored their harvest in Barchana cold storage.
Priyadarshini said that farmers will be able to store their harvest properly when work on the two under-construction cold storage is completed.