Telangana has blocked shipments of potatoes from Uttar Pradesh to encourage offtake of its own potato produce, says a report in the Indian Express of 2 January, 2022. This is an example of unplanned crop diversification. A Telangana official, as per the report, defended the move asking why the state’s consumers should buy stored potatoes from UP when then can get fresh ones from the state. But that’s a choice consumers should make; not one which the state should force on them.
As per the report, UP farmers sow potato from mid-October to early-November and harvest it between 20 February and 10 March. They sell around a fifth of the produce and store the rest for staggered sale till end of November when fresh potatoes from Himachal Pradesh (mainly Una district), Punjab (Doaba belt), Karnataka (Hassan, Kolar and Chikkaballpur districts), Maharashtra (Manchar) and UP (Farrukhabad and Kannauj) hit the market. This crop of 60-75 days does not store well and is disposed off immediately.
Telangana is promoting diversification out of rice. It contribution to the central pool, as per the official Food Grain Bulletin was 54.27 lakh tonnes in 2020-21 against 36.17 lakh tonnes in 2017-18, 51.90 lakh tonnes in 2018-19 and 74.54 lakh tonnes in 2019-20. Rice production has increased because of better irrigation facilities.
Telangana produces potatoes on about 3,500 acres mainly in the Zaheerabad area of Sangareddy district. This can rise to about one lakh acres.
Instead of producing potatoes for table consumption the government should promote cultivation of processing-quality potatoes, which have a good export market. It should also encourage farmers to grow crops that the country is deficient in. Free trade makes agricultural production efficient; blocking it is incompatible with the goal of creating a single national agricultural market.
(Top photo by Vivian Fernandes)