Rajesh Rai | Chukha

The weather had been kind to potato growing farmers of Chapcha, Chukha. With ample rain this year, the potato fields on the ridges are flowering, a sign it will soon be harvest time.

Farmers are expecting a good yield and the recent rain had added to their optimism.

But farmers are worried about the market. With the border sealed and movement of people and vehicles restricted, they are worried what will happen to the tuber which will be ready for export by July.

One farmer, Thinley Bidha said she is not prepared for what is coming.

“All I know is that I have to sell my potatoes,” she said.

Changlo, another villager said the talk of the village these days is about what solution the government would bring for the potato farmers. It is on every villager’s mind, he added.

Villagers said they heard that a massive cold storage would be constructed in Chukha. This, they said would solve the problem not only for them but also of potato growers in other dzongkhags.

“Farmers from other places who take their produce to Phuentsholing auction yard can also store,” he said.

Chukha has a cold storage in Gedu but it cannot accommodate more than five metric tonnes. The deputy chief agriculture officer in Chukha, Saha Bir Rai said there is no plans about a cold storage at present.

“Cold storage plans and activities are carried out from the central agencies,” the officer said, adding there was nothing as of now.

Considering the pandemic, Saha Bir Rai said the ministry has formed a National Vegetable Marketing Taskforce, which will support in distribution of farmers’ surplus produces on needs based approach.

On May 15, the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) and Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan launched an online Farmers’ Market System (OFMS) to help farmers access market in the wake of the Covid-19.

It was aimed at mapping production, spotting market and linking the parties by disseminating market information across the country. But the farmers said it would be difficult for them to go online, with some even sharing they don’t own smart phones or know how to use them.

FCBL’s director for department of corporate business, Dorji Tashi said it is a simple platform for sellers to put online their produce and buyers can directly contact them to purchase.

“Farmers can use the system to sell small quantity of potatoes from their gardens,” he said.

“Agriculture extension officers and students can help farmers to operate this system.”

However, Dorji Tashi said FCBL has different arrangement for the large-scale potato trading.

FCBL will carry all the necessary works and farmers need not worry.

“We will go to the source and offer them a price,” Dorji Tashi said, explaining the transportation will also be taken care.

A team has already been formed for this, he said.

“However, FCBL is waiting for directives from the government,” he said.