Samdrupjongkhar’s auction yard is unusually busy at this time of the year

Agriculture:  It is the height of the potato season in Samdrupjongkhar with the Food Corporation of Bhutan’s (FCB) auction yard unusually busy unlike past years since the auction started in June 1.

FCB recorded almost 300 percent more potatoes this year compared to last year. Officials said that not many farmers come with their produce at this time of the year with farmers hoarding potatoes expecting better prices at the end of the season.

Officials also said that this is the first time in 24 years that farmers have visited the auction yard with their produce right after the harvest.

Despite the increase in production, the price is also in favour of the farmers this year with the potatoes fetching a slightly better price than last year. The trend is such that prices tend to drop if there is more produce at the auction yard.

Officials attributed the good price to quality potato produce in the dzongkhags of Trashigang Mongar, Pemagatshel and Trashiyangtse.

Besides the bountiful harvest, some farmers said they brought their produce to the auction yard early to avoid roadblocks given the continuous rainfall. Others attributed it to the better price this year, which was why they did not hoard their produce.

As of yesterday, a total of 656.8MT of potatoes was auctioned since fetching Nu 11.1 million (M) this year compared to 122MT in 2015 that fetched Nu 1.4M during the same period.

The auction yard receives about eight trucks everyday with each truckload carrying 9MT of potatoes. Farmers have to wait for at least three days at the auction yard to auction their produce.

Red potatoes fetched Nu 20 per kilogramme on an average this year against Nu 16 last year while white potatoes fetched Nu 16 against last year’s Nu 12. The small potatoes, which Indian bidders use as seedlings, fetched about Nu 12 this year.

“We auction for certain hours in a day so that it doesn’t affect the price. If we auction all the potatoes that we receive in a day, the price could drop drastically,” an official said.

FCB officials are worried that if farmers do not follow proper grading it might affect price. Indian bidders preferred large and medium potatoes in the beginning of the season and small potatoes at the end.

“But famers pack all sizes of potatoes together despite notifying them as they don’t want to travel twice to bring their produce to the auction yard,” the official added.

Meanwhile, farmers are hopeful that the price of potatoes would continue to increase this year.

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrupjongkhar