Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Farmers of Ngatsang gewog in Mongar are growing lokpa joktang, an off-season potato, to supplement their income.

Farmers have been growing the off-season potato since three years ago and claim it has been a lucrative business.

Many say they started growing the tuber in large scale after the gewog provided free potato seeds since 2018. Yekhar chiwog is into large scale farming followed by Pelshuphu chiwog since last year.

A farmer from Yekhar village, Dorji Wangmo, who earned about Nu 50,000 selling off-season potatoes planted in an acre of her land, said it is a good income for her. “The yield is good and I will continue growing it.”

Another farmer, Sonam Choden, said she increased the plantation area from the kitchen garden to 33 decimals last year and it fetched her Nu 20,000.

Yekhar tshogpa, Norbu, said only a few farmers planted potato earlier, which was mainly for family consumption. “After the gewog supplied seeds, the cultivation increased to 10 acres of fields on trial initially, and to 15 acres last year.”

He said good yield encouraged more farmers.

Norbu said off-season potatoes have no market issue, as it is grown in the off-season. “The buyers come at the doorstep.”

The Yekhar chiwog alone sold about 32 metric tonnes of potatoes in Gyalpozhing and Bumthang last year.  In the local market, local potatoes are sold at Nu 50 per kilogramme.

According to the tshogpa, 70 of the 108 households in his chiwog grew potatoes this year and the land size has also increased to 24 acres.

Similarly, almost all the households of Pelshuphu chiwog have expanded their potato cultivation.

The tshogpa, Sonam, said almost all 165 households in the chiwog are into commercial cultivation.

Ngatshang gup, Dorji Leki, said many farmers showed interest to grow off-season potatoes after the gewog’s initiative. “The intent behind supplying free seeds was to boost the farmers’ interest and rural economy. It will not only help generate income, but address the issue of gungtong and satong (fallow land).”