The farmers of Lahaul and Spiti are switching over new vocations as area and potato farming has drastically came down to about 750 hectares from that of 1200 hectares which was in seventies.
“The new trend of cultivation of apple, peas, sea-buckthorn and off-season vegetables in tribal district of Lahaul and Spiti is witnessing sudden shrinking of potato cultivation which was known as seed potato production in the country.” This was stated by former MLA Raghuveer Singh on the sidelines of Golden Jubilee celebration function at Shimla recently.
He said that due to low proposition and not getting good return, new vocations are becoming popular in both tribal valleys as people were recurring good return while it was also feeding the domestic needs.
The district considers one of the best place for disease free potato seeds since 1965. But now the people are shifting to another profession in wake of higher input costs and declining returns.
Thinly populated district houses only 31,000 people who render their livelihood from farming as it is mainstay of people in the valley which remained buried under snow for almost four months.
Former MLA said that potato is traditional farming since 1854 but people adopted as commercial farming from 1965 onwards.
The tribal district currently have 1200 hectares of area under potato cultivation, however it was considered as one of the world’s best potato production center for record 46,979 kg per hectare production even higher than that of Netherlands (37,772 kg), England (31,789 kg), Germany (30,948 kg), USA (30,322 kg), France (27,255 kg), Japan (26,154 kg), etc.
Congress leader who himself hails from peasantry class said that Lahaul Potato Society came up in the 1966 and was among the top cooperative societies in the country.
The seed potato being produced in the tribal district is fetching the rate Rs. 2000 to Rs. 2500 in the market at Chandigarh, Shimla and Delhi. However, it had huge demand for seeds in Gujrat, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
He said that seed potato was produced in 750 hectares. The district also known for green pea production cover about 1,780 hectares while rest 200 hectares are under fruit cultivation.
Lahaul Potato Society Managing Director Amar Dogra, laments that due to decline in production at the rate of 5 percent to 10 percent annually, farmers are opting highly economical vocations like fruit and vegetable production.
It could produce 2.5 lakh gunny bags of potatoes last year and farmers got only about Rs. 1,300 per quintal. However due to decline of production the prices have gone up this year due to increase of demand, he said.