YK Poudel

Bidha, 59, from Shemagangkha chiwog in Chapcha and her villagers are busy preparing the fields and sowing potatoes. The farmers are hopeful of a good harvest even though access to nearby markets is a challenge.

According to Bidha, she sows potatoes in an acre of her land yet the produce was not as expected. “It takes about 40 people to complete the entire process between land preparation and the harvest,” she said.

“I take it to Phuentsholing expecting a good price yet the production is decreasing annually. Last year was demotivating. We could not sell potatoes as expected and many rotted at the storage house,” she said.

Moreover, she said that the cultivation of potatoes is not that difficult work for farmers who have been doing it for ages.

“The challenge is that the gewog administration has not reached out to the farmers to study the required improvements and support needed,” she said. “If the gewog officials could be more proactive and get seeds for us, do proper research about post-harvest management and support the farmers, it would motivate the farmers to help in better production.”

“The new government has promised to deliver better support and facilities, so we are waiting,” she said.

Similarly, Rinzin Dorji, a farmer from Shemagangkha said that he sows potatoes in three acres and reaped about 400 metric tonnes of potatoes last year employing power tillers.

“During land preparation, we plough for three times, accounting between Nu eight and nine thousand,” he said. “Between sowing potatoes and harvesting, over 150 farmers are required.”

“It has been about three years that the selling price has not met the expenditure we made. When the price is unfavourable, the farmers are at great loss unable to meet the expenditure made,” he said.

Rinzin Dorji said that most farmers in Shemagangkha and across the country need the government’s attention.

“Modern technology, access to market and favourable prices, protection from pests and diseases and post-harvest management is a challenge the farmers are facing today,” he said.

Giving suggestions to the improvement of the agricultural sector he said that the gewog used to support the farmers by providing some seeds and assistance. “Nevertheless, it was ineffective. The farmers should be assisted in terms of modern technology such as power tillers, access to market and price negotiations, and protection from pests and diseases through study will motivate the farmers,” he said.

He acknowledged the improvement in the post-harvest management process, which is improving over the years through the construction of cold storage has helped the farmers at a local level.

Tshogpa of Shemagangkha chiwog, Dawa Gyem said that the chiwog has about 120 farming households. “Shemagangkha has been one of the highest producers of potatoes with each household producing between 2 and 4 tonnes of potatoes.”

“The farmers also cultivate carrots and other vegetables yet it’s grappling with modern technology such as green-house and power tillers for the farmers,” she said. “Earlier, Chapcha gewog used to provide a few varieties of vegetable seeds to the farmers. It has stopped in recent years.”

Among the roots and tubers, potato has been one of the highest cash crops exported to India. Bhutan produced 31,146 metric tonnes (MT) of potatoes in 2022, which was 7,427MT less than in 2021 (a decrease of 19 percent).

Most of the major potato-producing dzongkhags had lower harvests in 2022: Wangdue harvested 10,323MT, Paro harvested 2,942MT, and Mongar harvested 2,626MT.

Between 2018 and 2022, the country harvested potatoes from 44,278MT from 11,131 acres in 2018 to 31,146MT from 7,820 acres in 2022.

The number of potato growers decreased to 33,096 in 2022 from 33,737 in 2021.