Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Deficient snow last winter and the unusual rise in temperatures this summer could bring down the seed potato production in Lahaul and Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh by 25-30 percent, officials here say.
The landlocked Lahaul valley is one of India's major disease-free seed potato-producing regions, with more than 90 percent of the produce going to potato-growing states like West Bengal, Bihar and Karnataka.
'The lack of adequate snowfall during winter and abnormal rise in temperatures this summer have badly hit the seed potato crop. The total production would be 25-30 percent lower than last year,' agriculture deputy director J.S. Chauhan told IANS.
Total production this season will be around 120,000 bags of 50 kilograms each, considerably less than last year's 160,000 bags, he said.
Lahaul valley is known for producing pest-resistant Kufri Chandramukhi and Kufri Jyoti varieties of seed potatoes.
Amar Chand Dogra, acting managing director of the Lahaul Seed Potato Growers Cooperative Marketing Ltd that is run by the farmers of the valley, confirmed that the potato crop has been affected this season due to unfavourable weather.
'Lack of snowfall during winter has lessened moisture content in the soil during the sowing season (May-June). And then the rise in temperature in summer affected propagation of the crop,' Dogra said.
Farmer Singhi Ram of Keylong, the district headquarters, said while potato sowing is generally over by mid-June, it has been delayed this year due to the lack of rains. 'The situation was further aggravated by continuous dry spells,' he added.
Added Suresh Kumar, another farmer: 'Our livelihood is dependent on potatoes. We get just one crop a year (as the area is covered with massive snowfall almost six months). If such situation continues, we will be forced to switch over to the cultivation of peas and hops.'
Himachal Pradesh has received 33 percent less rainfall this monsoon. 'The overall monsoon was below average in most parts of the state,' said meteorological department director Manmohan Singh.
Abhijit Ghosh, a trader from Kolkata, said the demand of Lahaul's seed potatoes was quite high as the crop had been damaged extensively in Karnataka, West Bengal and Bihar due to a late blight disease.
'We are here to buy blight-resistant potato seeds, but the output here is not adequate. Even the crop quality has been affected this time,' he said.
The arrival of the potato crop in the market would continue till mid-November. Currently, wholesale prices of seed potato at Keylong are hovering between Rs.1,000 and Rs.1,200 for a 50-kilogram pack.
Around 2,000 farmers in the Lahaul valley cultivate potatoes over 900 hectares. The other cash crops in the region are peas, cauliflower and hops, besides fruit crops like apple, pear, apricot, almond and plum.