Dwindling potato sales raise concerns in western districts

Farmers in most potato growing districts in western parts of the country are facing challenges in selling their produce this season. They say the low price at the auction yard in Phuentshogling, which has led to a lack of local buyers, is affecting the sale of the tuber this time around. At Genye Gewog in Thimphu, because of the dire situation in the villages, the matter was also brought up in the recent Dzongkhag Tshogdu.

Genye Gewog in Thimphu is one of the areas in the country where potato cultivation is a main source of income. However, this year, prices have fallen to an all-time low.

“We did not face this problem even during the lockdown as buyers came to buy the potatoes in the villages and we could sell them for Nu 1,400 to 1,500 per sack. But this year, no one came here to buy them. Moreover, even when we took the harvest to Thimphu town, firstly, there was not enough space to sell our produce, and also we only get a maximum of Nu 900 per sack now,” said Kinley Dorji, a farmer.

“The potato business is very bad this year. The villagers are disheartened because of this. It has been over a month since we harvested the potatoes and they are now becoming greenish and some have even rotted,” said Sonam Wangchuk, another farmer.

The situation has prompted villagers to seek help from the government urging authorities to assist in selling their potatoes.

At the recent Dzongkhag Tshogdu, local leaders raised the concern in the session.

“Three chiwogs in Genye heavily rely on the sale of potatoes for their livelihoods and up until now, we have never faced this kind of issue. Since we are unable to sell the potatoes in the market, we have to bring them back. It is convenient for those owning trucks to transport the potatoes but the ones without are facing difficulties with more expenses and transportation charges,” said Wangdi Gyeltshen, Geney Gewog Mangmi.

The Dzongkhag Tsogdu resolved to inform the government about the matter.

Similarly, the situation is no different in Haa, Paro, Chhukha and Bumthang. Some farmers have started packing their harvest while others have kept them stacked up in fields.

“The price of potatoes used to be around Nu 25 to 30 per kilogramme. But now the price has fallen to 13 to 15 ngultrum. We have harvested the potatoes and now the stocked potatoes are rotting. Farmers here are going through a very difficult time. We are also unable to repay the loans to the banks,” said Domchu, a farmer from Chhapcha.

“The price is not good in the FCB auction yard in Phuentsholing. The local buyers are also not giving good prices. We have no idea where to sell the potatoes. They are now starting to sprout,” said Changlo, a farmer from Lingzhi, Naja Gewog.

“Potato is the main cash crop of farmers in Haa. During the pandemic, FCB officials came to our village and facilitated the sale of potatoes but now this arrangement is no longer there. Moreover, there are no local buyers as well. So the potatoes are getting damaged in the backyards,” said Nim Tshering, a farmer from Geyrina, Uesu Gewog, Haa.

Usually the FCB used to run announcements informing farmers about the market situation. However, this time there are no such announcements made. There are no buyers at all now,” said Leki, a farmer from Khangrab, Tang Gewog, Bumthang.

Meanwhile, the Food Corporation of Bhutan said the potato auctions are going on as usual. FCB’s CEO said a quintal of potatoes is sold at Nu 2,000 to 2,100 at the auction yard.

The Agriculture Minister said the ministry has yet to receive any information regarding the issue.

Deki Lhazom

Edited by Kipchu

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