Agriculture: Gasa’s first cooperative group that was formed a few months ago hopes to sell around five to 10 metric tonnes of organic potatoes this year.

The Gasa Rangzhing Sanam Detsen has 51 members and is the first and only cooperative group registered under the Cooperative Act of Bhutan, 2009. The group received its registration certificate last week.

Gasa dzongdag, Dorji Dhradhul said although the dzongkhag was declared organic since 2004, this would be the first time for the district to be certified to produce and sell organic products.

The dzongda said that the ground work to organize the group started four months ago and actual registration was done last month. The group has a woman chairperson and secretary, and a male treasurer.

The group’s main activity for this year is to grow and sell potatoes and garlic as certified organic products. The group has demarcated land for potato production. Each member will work on around 20-30 decimals and gather their potato produce at the gewog centre.

He said to qualify for the certificate they had to submit soil for soil testing at the National Soil Service Centre, which was one of the many procedures. The conditions are set by the National organic programme and BAFRA, which will also be monitoring the group.

He said the potatoes will be graded several times before selling. The initial grading will be done at the farmer’s level at individual fields, and the selected products will be sent to the gewog centre, where further grading will be conducted. Packaging and labelling of the potatoes will be done in a standard way with the help of National Post Harvest centre in Paro.

“Our aim is to distribute the packed and labelled product amongst high-end hotels,” said dzongdag Dorji Dhradhul. “We are hoping to sell at least about five to 10 metric tonnes that would be priced bit higher than other local potatoes.”

The group will also be growing garlic alongside potatoes this year, and expand to other vegetables from next year.

He said that it is an open group and any interested local farmers could join the group. The group will be collecting Nu 100 per month as membership fee, and expect to increase their income through the sale of potatoes.

Officials said the dzongkhag has supported the formation of the group, and will be fully supporting the group with marketing at the initial level.

Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue