Falling ginger prices leave farmers worried

The price continued to drop further this year despite the good yield

Agriculture: Aum Yengjay Lhamo of Dzombabi village in Sarpang is relieved of a daunting task in the fields this year with ginger plantation completed in her one-acre land.

However, Yengjay Lhamo is worried about last year’s yield. More than three metric tonnes (MT) of ginger is buried in her backyard. Despite the good harvest, the price that it fetched was disappointing. Hoping for the price to improve, Yengjay Lhamo waited until now.

“You can’t even recover the labour charges from the existing selling price,” she said. “Falling prices despite improved production is a worry for farmers.”

Yengjay Lhamo doesn’t have a choice but to transport last year’s yield to the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) auction yard in Gelephu. She could have planted more this year but unpredictable price next year prompted her to be more cautious.

Another farmer in Chuzagang, Tashi, 48, said that ginger always fetched a good price until last year. “People were interested in planting more each year given the good price,” he said. “The falling price would lead to farmers opting for a different crop over ginger soon.”

Tashi harvested about one MT of ginger last year, half of which he sold for Nu 13 a kilogram, which is fourfold less than what he fetched last year.

Chuzagang gewog produces the maximum ginger yield with each household planting ginger in about 10 to 15 decimal of land.

The gewog agriculture extension officer, Tashi Dawa said that about 80 percent of the farmers grow ginger in about 80 acres of land in Chuzagang. Assuming that at least five MT of ginger are harvested from an acre of land, the gewog alone could produce 400MT of ginger in a year.

He said despite good harvest this year, the low price discouraged farmers to bring their produce to market. “Most farmers have planted more than what they planted last year. The yield would double next year,” he said. “Should the price improve, farmers will be able to recover the loss next year.”

At the Gelephu FCB auction yard, the highest price that ginger fetched so far this year stood at Nu 27 a kilogram and the lowest at Nu 10. Last Sunday the price stood at Nu 19 a kilogram.

Auction yard manager Norbu Wangdi said that ginger price dropped further this year compared to last year.

Concerned about the drastic drop in price, FCB officials said they went to India to find out the reason. It was learnt that this year India, Nepal and Sikkim produced ginger in abundance that lead the price to drop. Officials said that ginger from China had also entered the Indian market.

As of yesterday 101MT of ginger from Tsirang, Dagana, Sarpang and Zhemgang was sold through open auction in Gelephu. Sarpang produced about 465MT of ginger as stated during the 11th Plan midterm review. Sarpang’s target to produce 541MT ginger keeping the baseline at 390MT in 2010 could not be achieved.

FCB sold only about 57MT of ginger last year. “Compared to the previous year, ginger harvest is better this time,” Norbu Wangdi said.

Meanwhile, farmers remain hopeful that the price would increase next year that would boost production in future.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Gelephu

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