Agriculture: Much to the disappointment of farmers who are shifting to cash crops, the price of ginger this year has dropped by half in Samdrupjongkhar.

The ginger export started from January yet farmers and buyers said the price has remained constant with a kilogram fetching maximum of Nu 16. Price went as high as Nu 35 a kg last year.

This comes at a time when most of the villagers in 11 gewogs in Samdrupjongkhar are gradually shifting to cash crops, especially ginger after the production of oranges dropped.

Middlemen attributed the bumper ginger production in India especially Shillong, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Nepal to the drop in the price.

The middlemen buy gingers at Nu 14 per kg from the farmers and then sell it for Nu 16 per kg.

Farmers are skeptical of the middlemen and feel that they are playing with the price, as production this year is good.

A businessman, Kezang from Martshala said most of the farmers are hoping that the price will improve later and are storing the gingers and selling only when they need money. “The chances of an increase in price is very slim,” he said.

An Indian buyers, Promod Soikoy based in Darranga, said the price is also low in Indian market because of the good year for ginger. He said buyers prefer Indian gingers to Bhutanese because of the quality and size.

He said most Bhutanese farmers do not sort and pack ginger properly, which again affects the price because the quality and packing play vital role in determining price.

“The Indian buyers provide them the sacks, needles and thread, and all the packing and grading are done by the buyers themselves. So it automatically brings down the price, but if Indian production is less, Bhutanese farmers sometime even fetch Nu 80 per kg.”

Although Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) does not maintain data, based on the documents issued, about 22 truckloads or 198MT of gingers have been exported so far. Each household sold about five mon (40kg) of gingers.

Regional manager Pema Wangchuk said they encourage farmers to auction at the corporation’s auction yard for better price and regulate the export of cash crops. “We are not aware how much of ginger is exported, but they still don’t come forward,” he said.

This he attributed to the presence of middlemen who pay advance to farmers. “We are the last option and they are insisting us to buy when they cannot sell it because of lower price.”

The regional manager said they are trying to work on a price while also trying to convince farmers to auction them.

Gingers in Gelephu fetched about Nu 22 per kg as of yesterday because the farmers there auctioned directly to the corporation.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar