Farmers upset with poor potato prices

A bumper harvest in India is attributed for the drastic drop in prices

Harvest: The plummeting potato prices by almost seven times at the auction yard in Phuentsholing this year has come as a big blow to farmers, with some varieties even failing to meet the transportation costs.

Potato prices have dropped by more than seven times since last year, farmers said.

Earlier this month, Tashi Wangchuk, 38, from Khotokha, Wangdue took 100-bags of potatoes, each weighing a quintal (100 kgs) in a hired truck to Phuentsholing. He paid Nu 250 as transportation charge for each 100 kg bag of potatoes.

“I was surprised and numb when buyers at the auction yard paid only Nu 100 for small sized potatoes,” the father of three said. Even the best sized, he said, fetched only Nu 500 for a quintal, which last year had fetched Nu 3,800.

“We still have 200 bags of potatoes and I am concerned about the prices,” Tashi said.  For potato farmers like him, Tashi said that this year’s income would not be able to meet the plantation expenses let alone earn some extra income for the family. The family earned Nu 1M last year.

Dorji, 41, whose family grow potatoes on almost three acres of land, said he sold 160 bags of potatoes and earned around Nu 450,000 last year. This year they fetched Nu 170,000 for 100 bags of potatoes.

Bjena mangmi Kinley Tauchu said a majority of potato growers in Wangdue were unhappy with the prices, as many rely solely on potato income to meet their household expenses.

He said the other problem was about delay in receiving payment and the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) not providing accurate information.

“Earlier we were paid within five days after selling the potatoes, but now they don’t pay even after a week,” Dorji said.

Another farmer said, it is FCB’s responsibility to provide potato farmers with clear information on what type of potatoes to bring during which month.

Auction manager at Phuensholing FCB, Purna Bdr Tamang said the drastic drop in potato prices was caused due to a bumper harvest in India.

He said payment is made as per FCB’s scheduled system and farmers were paid seven days after the auction. “However, we also provide an option to farmers to deposit the money in their bank accounts,” he said.

Purna Bdr Tamang said FCB does inform people through television announcements, agriculture department, and agriculture extension offices about the prices and always encourage them to bring when the prices hike.

“Normally, the price is better from June to October and starts dropping from

November,” the manager said.

Compared to last few months, this month the prices have however increased a bit, as it is a season for potato seeds. The current price is Nu 25 a kg for medium size, which is considered the best variety, and Nu 21 for bigger size. The smaller size potatoes get only Nu 5.

Potato auction starts from May and lasts until December.

Potatoes from Phobjikha in Wangduephodrang, Bumthang, Paro, Chukha, and Trongsa are auctioned in Phuentsholing while the six eastern dzongkhags are auctioned in Samdrupjongkhar.

Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue

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