Potato crop in Wadi-e-Kandao
Over the years, potato has become a very important crop both for the farmers and consumers in Pakistan. It is the fourth most important crop by volume of production and is high yielding, having a good nutritive value and gives enough returns to farmers.
In Wadi-e-Kandao, a rain dependent region of four villages in district Swabi, including Jhanda, a recent large increase in acreage was reached by an intensification of the cultivation in the existing potato growing areas as well as by the introduction of the crop in the area. It was Mr Aman Ullah Khan who brought a revolutionary change in the year 2017 in the local agriculture by applying all the modern techniques in growing the new quality crop here. There are many red varieties in this quality like Bartina, Flemenko, Rudolph and 941. In Wadi-e-Kandao, mostly 941 and Bartina are cultivated because they give high returns per kanal and also capture attractive price in the market.
In the beginning, there were many problems for inexperienced farmers, e.g. diseases and pests became more hazardous and a large number of them were lacking knowledge of the right cultivation techniques. These include pests and disease control, land preparation and irrigation, fertilizer application, crop rotation and multi-cropping techniques.
In this regard, costly seed of high quality forms another constraint. The seed contributes to about 35-40% of the total cost of production in Pakistan. Formal certified seed production is limited and faces technical, economical and managerial problems. Lack of availability of sufficient quantities of good seed and low purchasing power of the farmers compels them to rely on seed sources of doubtful quality or own production for which most of them do not have the proper skills.
Poor post-harvest handling, including transport and storage practices causes unnecessary damage and losses and reduction in the consumption. Sufficient cold storage facility is available in Pakistan but handling of potatoes in storage is unsatisfactory and poorly managed. Finally, the farmers and consumers are faced with severe cyclical fluctuations in price as production moves from glut to shortage, so preventing the farmers from enjoying a reliable income and inhibiting the consumers from including potato as a regular staple part of their diet.
These days the potato prices have sharply declined as farmers are dumping the vegetable into the market due to lack of returns for them against the total input cost, says Wahid Ullah. This season’s potatoes are being sold at the maximum rate of Rs600 per 23 kg in Hazro Wholesale Vegetable Market, against earlier rates which had been over Rs1200 per 23 kg. The president of Hazro Wholesale Vegetable Market has said that farmers were dumping potato as it was difficult to pay labour cost for taking potato out of the field. Moreover, transportation cost was an additional burden on them. He added that potato was facing tough competition here as compared to India, where it was being sold at Rs2 to 3 per kg.
The writer works in De Laas Gul Welfare Program (DLG) as District Development Coordinator, Swabi.