Potato plants affected by late blight in Chukha (File Photo)

Late blight hits potato production

The quantity of potato brought for auctioning this year in Phuentsholing has dropped by nine percent.

Records with the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) show that its auction yard in Phuentsholing saw 1,552.75 metric tonnes (MT) of potatoes this year in July compared to 1,705.97MT in July 2016.

FCBL marketing advisor Bhimraj Gurung said potatoes this year was affected by late blight, which could have reduced production.

However, the officials said that it could also be the low market price due to which farmers are not willing to bring their produce for auction at present.

The availability of Indian potatoes harvested in April and stored in cold storages are available for low prices in the market. This has left little space for Bhutanese potatoes that are now being brought into the market.

Average auction rate for July this year remained at Nu 12.60 per kg. For the same period in 2016, the average rate was Nu 21.81 per kg.

Bhimraj Gurung said that this is a 42 percent drop compared to the previous year. “This is mainly due to the cheaper Indian potatoes that are being released into the market,” he added.

FCBL officials said that the dzongkhags should inform potato growers to not expect high rates this year.

At present, most potatoes that are sold are small-sized potatoes. Officals said that if sold as seeds when the season ends, it would fetch better prices.

Meanwhile, FCBL has notified local leaders to suggest farmers to not hoard potatoes. When the produce is brought for auction at a time, there are high chances that the prices may drop, Bhimraj Gurung said.

Chief marketing officer with the department of agricultural marketing and cooperatives, Yonten Jamtsho said that they keep monitoring the prices.

“However, this time the production in India is good,” he said, adding that Bhutanese growers will have to compete with them.

Meanwhile, not all growers are affected by late blight. Farmers in Paro reaped a good harvest.

Tshering Choden from Paro said the disease did not affect their fields. She said the prices were low last month due to which many did not bring the produce for auction.

“But farmers are now bringing the potatoes as price is improving,” she added. “I got Nu 2,000 for a bag of potatoes,” she said.

However, farmers in Chukha said they were affected the most this year due to late blight.

Farmer Kama in Chapcha said all potato growers are affected.

“There is not much production,” he said. “Compared to last year, production dropped by 70 percent this year. This time, all the farmers will suffer loss.”

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

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