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- Friday, May 04, 2012 - From Print Edition


KARACHI: The demand of Pakistani potato witnessed a surge in the Indian market, said an exporter on Thursday.


Azam Ishaque, director of the Harvest Tradings, said that India will not get a bumper crop this year, and in order to cater to the domestic market and processing industry, the private sector has shown interest to get Pakistani potatoes.


Potato ranks third among food crops, after wheat and rice, and fifth in total agro products in Pakistan. Pakistan is one of the largest potato producing country in the world. The total production of potatoes stood at 1.8 million tons in 1988/99 that increased to 2.94 million tons in 2008/09, surpassing all previous records, he said.


Around 127.75,000 hectares of land was reserved to grow potato to achieve the target. However, the production reached 2.94 million tons in 2008.09 and 3.14 million tons in 2009/10. In 2010/11, the government set the potato production target at 2.64 million tons, he said.


The Indian traders from Jammu and Kashmir had already started importing potato from the border posts of Srinagar and Poonch with zero import duty, said Ishaque, adding that Pakistani potato is cheaper than the Indian variety by 20-40 percent. “Owing to considerable price difference, import is expected to increase further as several more traders are open to sourcing potato from Pakistan,” he said.


India’s potato production is expected to be 33.5-34 million tons this year, which is 10-15 percent less than last year. This is due to lower production in Bihar, West Bengal and certain parts of Uttar Pradesh. With a small crop to be harvested in Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka in August, prices are expected to remain steady this year, he said.


“A good bumper crop in Pakistan, coupled with a stronger Indian rupee against the Pakistani unit is creating opportunities for traders to import Pakistani potato,” he said.


Ishaque said that the Indian traders imported 200-250 trucks (10-15 tons per truck) during the last two weeks through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot trade posts.


Pakistani potato is also being exported to New Delhi’s Azadpur mandi and markets in Punjab from the Jammu post, he said, adding that the weekly demand for white and red skinned potato in the Jammu and Kashmir market is over 100 trucks.


Haji Shahjahan, president of the Welfare Association Wholesale Vegetable Market, told The News that India and Bangladesh are two competitors and Pakistan had not received any import request from India through sea route or Wagah border.


“Pakistan is in competition with India in Malaysian and Colombo markets,” he said.


Potato is the crop of Punjab and very little quantity might have exported to India from Kashmir border, as the commodity is being cultivated in some areas of Kashmir also, he added.