Introduction: Potato, a starchy, versatile tuberous crop grown all over the world. Whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian for both it is an essential food crop. Apart from cereals, pulses and oilseeds, potato is the highest consumed crop in the world. No vegetable dish appears to be complete without the presence of potatoes in it. In sixty meals in a month either vegetarian or non veg. dishes at least 40 meals are consumed with dishes containing potatoes. Besides consuming as vegetables, potatoes are consumed as delicious snacks in the form of Chips, wafers, fingers, flakes etc. Different Multi National Companies in the country produces value added products of potato chips in different trade names like Uncle Chips, Lay’s Chips, Bingo Chips, Kurkure etc. Market survey conducted on consumption / procurement of Potato chips in the State of Manipur reveals that around 6-8 tons of Chips are consumed daily / procured from outside the states at the cost of Rs. 9.00 lakhs to Rs.12.00 lakhs assuming at the dealer’s landing cost of Rs.150.00 per kg against the retail sale cost of Rs.300 per kg. Therefore, there is an outflow of Rs. 270.00 lakhs to Rs.360.00 lakhs monthly from the state’s exchequer against the procurement / consumption of around 180- 240 tons of Potato Chips per month.
It may be interesting to note that these varieties of potatoes for industrial uses can be commercially cultivated in Manipur where table potatoes are grown and the produces can be processed as Chips, Flakes, Wafers, Fingers etc by adding desired taste and flavour of local consumers. For production of 1 kg of Chips, 4 kgs of fresh potatoes are required. Therefore, based on the above market survey, the monthly requirement of fresh potatoes tubers would be approximately 720-960 tons. Therefore, while venturing commercial production of this crop there is no question of market problems when a small Unit of 3-4 tons per day Chipping capacity comes up in the state.
Present status: In Manipur, except very few groups of farmers there is no record of commercial cultivation of potatoes that too just a part for local/domestic consumption. However, for household consumption almost every farmer in the state cultivate in the homestead garden which serves 15-20% of annual requirement. The remaining quantities are sourced at varying rates ranging from Rs.18-25 per kg from the stocks procured by the dealers from outside the state. Inspite of having tremendous scope for generating income from the commercial cultivation of potatoes, still we are unable to take up this venture. This could be because of the following factors viz.
1. The initial investment is very high comparing to other vegetable crops. The recommended seed requirement per ha. being 2000 kgs and the cost of quality planting materials (QPM) or Certified seed is around Rs.25-30 per kg which would involve around Rs.50,000- 60,000 per ha. exclusively on the cost of seeds.
2. Lack of post harvest technologies which involves – correct stage and methods of harvesting, curing and storage to avoid rottage.
3. Small land holdings for commercial cultivation coupled with non-availability of irrigation water.
4. Non availability of QPM at the door steps of the farmers at right time.
5. Lack of credit flow from the financial institutions.
6. Non existence of proper storage / scientific godown / Cold storage.
Approach: The above important issues are mainly associated with the production of potatoes for table purposes. But now as an income generating option the above problems can be addressed when Potato chip production variety cultivation is ventured in a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mode. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) is now an accepted efficient tool for good governance or management under which a long-term, mutually agreed contractual partnerships between Public sector (Government) and Private sector have been established, specially targeting towards financing, designing, implementing projects, and operating infrastructure facilities for delivery of services and products that were traditionally provided by the public sector alone for the welfare of the citizens. To begin with, amongst the private sectors few local enterprising food processing units have started exploring the potentials and possibilities by installing Potatoes Chipping plant of capacity to process 3 to 4 tons per day, which will require around 90-120 tons of potatoes per month. To ensure maximum crop yield and better return for the farmers /producer groups, Public sector can utilise the services of the R&D Institutes housed in the state viz. Indian Council of Agricultural Research Centre, (ICAR) Imphal, Central Agricultural University,(CAU) Iroishemba, Institute of Bio-Resources for Sustainable Development, (IBSD) Imphal. Very fortunately Manipur experiences two planting seasons one in the hills during Feb-March and other in the valley during Oct-Nov. This is an added advantage to synchronise continuous availability of raw materials for the processing units.
Economics: The cost of cultivation per hectare of potato is approximately Rs.1,05, 000-Rs.1,10,000.00 based on the present market rate of inputs and wages which includes land preparation, cost of inputs (QPM, Manures/Fert, plant protection measures) planting, weeding, irrigation, harvesting, curing etc. At the estimated yield of 15-20 tons per ha. against the recorded yield of 30 tons by observing all the required package and practices in 110-120 days a farmer can earn a net income (profit) of Rs.70,000-75,000 in just four months by selling @Rs.12,000 per ton at the harvesting time.
In India, Potato Chips / Wafers / flakes are produced mainly from the varieties of Potatoes released by ICAR. So far four promising varieties released for processing Chips are viz. Kufri Chipsona-1; Kufri Chipsona-2; Kufri Himalini and Kufri Chipsona -3. It is reported that the last two varieties are suitable for commercial cultivation in the hilly regions. The hybrid potato maintains excellent processing qualities even after six months of on-farm storage at intermediate temperatures, thus facilitating to provide raw materials to the processing industry for almost round the year. Kufri Chipsona-3 is a medium maturing (110-120 days), late blight resistant potato variety with round oval tubers, white smooth skin and cream/pale yellow flesh. The Kufri Chipsona-3 hybrid is easy-to-cook, has excellent flavour with best aroma when boiled or baked and is free from discoloration after cooking. Because of these characteristics, Chipsona-3 is reported to be used both for processing (chips and flakes) as well as table purposes. The higher yields to the tune of 25-30 tons per ha coupled with late blight resistance can be the best option for cultivating this hybrid variety of potato.
Support to processing units: With the launching of National Mission on Food Processing during the 12th Plan; there is a good opportunity for the processing units to avail financial assistance in the form of grant in aid on the cost of plant and machinery and civil works to the tune of 33.33% or to a maximum of Rs.75.00 lakhs from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, which is now completely decentralized at the State level. In addition to this, the Unit can also avail Venture Capital Assistance to the tune of 40% of promoter’s contribution as interest free loan from the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium.
It is better late than never, it is up to us to decide whether to exploit the huge potentials available with us.