Mettupalayam is one of the major trading centres in India.
Potato is a major food crop, grown in more than 100 countries in the world and it is one of the major commercial crops grown in India. India ranks third by contributing around 7.5% to the world’s production. During 2006-07, 27 million tonnes was produced in an area of about 1.5 million ha. However, potato consumption per capita in India (14.8 kg/head/year) is one of the lowest in the world and hardly one percent of the potato is processed.
Potato is a major vegetable widely consumed throughout Tamil Nadu whereas it is grown only in the hilly regions of Dindigul (2796 ha), Nilgiri (1950 ha), Krishnagiri (131 ha) and Erode (126 ha) districts.
Dindigul and Nilgiri districts together constituted about 95% of potato area in the state during 2005-06. Both area and production are in the down trend over years from 1974-75 to 2005-06. In Nilgiri district potato is cultivated in three seasons namely Irrigated season / Neer bogam (Mar, Apr- Jun, July), Kar bogam (May- August) and Kadai bogam (Aug, Sep- Nov, Dec).
Potatoes can be stored in cold storage for about five to six months. In Mettupalayam, cold storage capacity is 35,000 tonnes and about 20,000 tonnes of potatoes are stored in cold storages. Potatoes coming from other states like Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh are mainly stored.
Peak period of storage takes place during January to May and is released during June-July. 40% to 50% of stored produce is used for seed purpose. Potatoes grown in Nilgiri district are stored to a lesser extent only. Traders are mainly following storage practices for seed purpose. Most of the farmers are not storing due to lack of awareness, land holding size and high cost. The Potatoes coming from Nilgiri district fetch higher price than potatoes of other states due to its superior quality and taste preference.
Mettupalayam is one of the major trading centres in India. The Nilgiris Co-operative Marketing Society (NCMS) and about 100 private commission mundies are functioning in Mettupalayam. Nearly one third of potato is traded through Nilgiris Co-operative Marketing Society. Potatoes from only Nilgiri district would be traded through NCMS. Other state potatoes are traded in private mundies. The arrival of potato is high during the months of June to December. Peak arrival is during August and September.
During January to May the arrivals will be low. Mettupalayam market reflects the overall prices of potato in Tamil Nadu. The team comprising of Dr.N.Raveendaran, Professor and Mrs.S.Kavitha, Senior Research Fellow of the Domestic and Export Market Intelligence Cell of Tamil Nadu agricultural University has analyzed and forecasted the scenario of potato prices based on the monthly price data from 1991 and came to the conclusion that there would be a decline in potato prices in the coming months.
The potato prices at NCMS will be around Rs. 550 to 650 per 45 kg during November, 2007 and Rs.400 to 550 per 45 kg during December 2007 and January 2008. Price is comparatively high during November because it is lean season with limited availability of supplies. Most of the harvest in India starts November onwards. As more product starts arriving in the market, price starts coming down from December onwards. Even storage for two to three months will not fetch higher prices due to arrivals from other states. Hence potato growers are advised to sell their potato immediately on harvest.
DEMIC, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore.