Published By: Admin

Karnataka Faces Severe Crop Decline; Potato Granaries Take a Hit

Hassan district, once a potato granary, now witnesses a sharp decline in production due to poor seeds, blight, low prices, rain, drought, and farmers shifting to other crops.

Hassan district, formerly renowned as the 'potato granary,' faces a significant crop decrease. About 4 per cent of Karnataka's potatoes were produced in Hassan.

Potato cultivation in the region has been reduced to merely 2,000 hectares. Farmers are hesitant due to subpar seed sowing, blight, unprofitable prices, constant rainfall, drought, and the allure of other commercial crops.

Diminishing potato cultivation: A steady decline

Potato cultivation in the district saw a decline over the years: 13,859 hectares in 2018–19, reduced to 10,127 in 2019–20, 9,345 in 2020–21, 10,849 in 2021–22, 6,970 in 2022–23, and currently at 2,160.9 hectares.

Farmers abandon potatoes; Embrace jowar and ginger!

As potatoes ceased to be profitable for farmers, they shifted their focus to jowar and ginger. Currently, most farming lands in the district are dedicated to cultivating jowar and ginger. Jowar is a low-cost, steady-income crop, while ginger promises to transform a farmer into a millionaire upon yielding the crop.

Abundance of potato seeds persists

Hassan supplies potato seeds to Chikkamagaluru, Chamarajanagar, Chitradurga, and Belagavi. Of the 4 lakh quintals stored this season, 2 lakh seeds remain. The price has dropped from Rs 1,600 to Rs 800 per quintal, yet farmers hesitate to buy even at the fixed price.

Dr. Y.S. Mahesh, Head of Horticulture Research and Extension Centre, Hassan, speaking to Republic, said that "Kusari Himalini, a sown variety, is immune to pests and weather conditions, and the same saplings are being grown in 10 nurseries. If you give three sprays at an interval of 15 days, you can get a good yield. We are preparing to distribute these saplings in large quantities to the farmers of the district."

Potato export halted 

Hassan's potatoes were once exported to foreign countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Bangkok. However, declining growth rates and halted exports have discouraged local farmers. In India, primary potato production occurs in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, where crops are planted in November, harvested by February, and stored in cold storage for year-round use. Farmers in Hassan value the region's soil and rainfed potato quality, leading to high demand for Hassan potatoes.

Karnataka's potato price surge

Potato prices in Karnataka have skyrocketed from Rs 10–12 per kg a month ago to Rs 30 per kg due to increasing demand and decreasing supply, with further steep increases expected.