The government is planning to construct more storage facilities and emphasise on online auction system to resolve problems such as insufficient storage facilities during auction season, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said at the National Assembly on November 28.

Members of Parliament (MP) from Nganglam, Choida Jamtsho and Kuenga from Nyishog-Saephu constituencies asked the minister on the measures the ministry is taking to resolve potato storage problems that farmers are today facing.

MP Kuenga said that there were not enough warehouses and expenditures of people increased while waiting to auction their produce in Samdrupjongkhar and Phuentsholing.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said there are about 61,000 rural households in the country today. About 20 percent of them depend on potato cultivation for livelihood.

He said that the highest potato production was recorded in 2006 with about 70,000 metric tonnes (MT) while this year the production was about 62,000MT. “There was an increase in 16,000 metric tonnes between 2012 and 2016, which translates into 2,000 trucks of potatoes.”

He said that potato production was also a priority in the 11th Plan for the ministry.

Lyonpo said that farm roads have been constructed in geowgs, chiwogs and even villages. “Because of farm roads, people could reach Samdrupjongkhar and Phuentsholing to sell their produce,” he said.

To resolve problems related to inadequate space in the auction yards, the government introduced an online auction system in 2016.

“The online system has been improving as people become more aware about it. Last year, we could not even auction about 100 trucks of potatoes online. But this year alone, about 300 truckloads of potatoes have been sold online.”

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that cold storage facilities have been constructed in places like Mongar, Samdrupjongkhar and Wangsisina in Thimphu and that the government plans to construct more.

“About 2,000MT of potatoes would be required every year when the construction of a processing factory in Nobding completes,” he said.

With support from Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Limited (REDCL), small enterprises manufacturing potato chips also require potatoes, which would benefit farmers, he said.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that the ministry had worked on farm mechanisation. Machines such as power tillers, diggers, sorting machines, and fertilisers and seeds have been provided to improve production, he said.

He added that about 163 schools are also regular buyers of potatoes, which would require about 40 percent of potatoes that are auctioned.

Rinchen Zangmo