The Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (FCBL) will vacate the warehouse at the auction yard in Samdrupjongkhar, which it is occupying and build metallic structure for the trucks so that farmers will not have to keep their produce in the sun and rain.

FCBL’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Naiten Wangchuk said this during a meeting with the farmers, truck drivers and the bidders in Samdrupjongkhar on July 25.

He said farmers had to wait sometimes for a week at the auction yard because of less number of bidders and that potato production has increased this year.

FCBL auctioned 998 metric tonnes (MT) of potatoes until July last year but auctioned 1,469MT until July starting May this year. “The bidders should buy more and try to explore more markets in places like Guwahati in Assam, India,” Naiten Wangchuk said.

A bidder from India, Kader Ali, said they buy potatoes and supply to others but they are also facing problems regarding payments and not being able to sell potatoes in Guwahati.

“I have taken potatoes to Guwahati recently but could not sell even a sack of potatoes despite keeping there for few days. I had to bring back and sell it at Kumarikata. We have to sell Bhutanese potatoes at the same price of Indian potatoes which is a loss to us,” Kader Ali said.

Naiten Wangchuk said that it will be difficult for the first time but it’s important to explore more markets. “Bidders should buy more potatoes giving good prices as there are good qualities of potatoes this year,” he said.

He requested the farmers to avoid over packaging and to pack the potatoes as per the sacks provided by the FCBL. “Poor packaging of potatoes do not fetch good price despite the good quality of the produce,” he said.

A potato farmer from Uzorong, Trashigang, Tshewang Gyeltshen, 59, said it’s been four days and he still could not unload the potatoes. “We are losing our interest in potato farming as it’s only a loss of the hard work we put in,” he said. He said their main problem is the limited space for unloading.

Naiten Wangchuk said besides vacating the warehouse at the auction yard, they have also started the queuing system, where farmers can contact FCBL representatives, provide details of their harvest, and wait for the right time to bring the produce at the auction yard. The corporation would then queue them accordingly.

Agriculture ministry had set a fixed rate of Nu 16 per kilo for big and medium potatoes. Naiten Wangchuk said that if the farmers agree to sell at the ministry’s rate, they can take their produce to sanam tshongkhangs and FCBL will take from there. “I hope this would help farmers.”

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar