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To check potatoes shortage and stop prices from rising in the festive season, the Union Government is planning to import potatoes for the first time. Consumers have to shell out Rs 34-40 per kg. Prices in some retail markets have risen by Rs 6-10 per kg since September1.
Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said, “We are taking all possible measures to control the rising prices.”
Recently, the government has constituted a high-powered group comprising secretaries from the departments of food, agriculture and consumer affairs to monitor prices of essential commodities. A daily report on retail price situation in four major metros is sent to the Prime Minister's Office.
National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (Nafed) - a cooperative to boost marketing of agricultural produce - would soon float tenders for this purpose, said Ashish Bahuguna, secretary, agriculture.
Tenders to import potatoes will be invited this month so that shipments reach India by November end, the agriculture secretary said. "Potato will be imported from Europe and Pakistan. Imports will be done to ensure sufficient supply till January."
The Small Farmers' Agri-Business Consortium has also been asked to explore possibilities of importing potatoes.
In June, the government imposed a minimum export price of $450 per tonne on potatoes to increase domestic availability and check rising prices. At present, there is a 30 per cent import duty on potatoes.
The stock of stored potatoes is getting depleted and the imported stock is expected to tide over the lean period till the new crop arrives from January-end. India produced 44.3 million tonnes of potatoes in 2013-14 crop year, 2.3 per cent less than the previous year.