Trade: To create business advantage to farmers across the country, the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan (RSEB) and the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) are bringing an online e-auction system called Bhutan Commodity Exchange  (BCE) system.

Farmers can now be able to save time and, at the same time, earn more.

A team from the securities exchange is currently working on this online system at FCBL auction yard in Phuentsholing.

The first trading was done on August 10. Two farmers who traded potato online were in high spirits.

Lobzang, a potato grower from Chamkhar in Bumthang, said the system comes as good news to the farmers.

“If I had sold my potatoes the usual way, I would not have made as much profit,” Lobzang said.

Lobzang brought 90 bags of potatoes from Bumthang online. He had to go through the mechanised grading process.

After grading the crop according to sizes, he was surprised to see the produce increased to 97 standard bags. A bag of potatoes weighs 50 kilograms (kg).

With 10 traders bidding for the potatoes already graded, Lobzang earned Nu 95,000. In normal procedure, he would have done a business of Nu 72,000.

Farmers usually trade potatoes in the auction yard without grading. The Indian traders buy the produce by manipulating the market price as they use their own grading system.

With the online system, farmers have the advantage of grading and play with the rate.

Another potato grower, who tried online auction on August 10, is 51-year-old Pema from Rukubji in Wangdue.

I did not have to wait four days like I had to before,” he said, adding that the trade was done in a day. “The payment was also made on the same day.”

In the online system, traders can bid from any place. Farmers’ expected price, depending on the size and type of the potatoes, including the quantity available are revealed online, and demand from the traders is also shown.

Even if there are differences in demand among the bidders, the produce could be consolidated for a common bid, which could be separated later. The bidding process is repeated in an hourly basis.

RSEB officials said the crux of BCE system is the discovery of the price.

“The supply and demand is brought to a standard at a one point of time every hour,” an RSEB official said, adding that the competition and price is better.

“This is stimulating the agricultural growth in the country.”

Meanwhile, RSEB and FCBL also have plans to start the system in other places. Farmers can stock their produce at FCBL storehouses and trade online without having to travel to regional auction yards.

The chief executive officer of securities exchange, Dorji Phuntsho, said that the country is ready to use such technology now.

“Technology is something we need to invest in as we progress,” he said. “We need to take advantage of the technology.”

Dorji Phuntsho said that BCE system is about building efficiency in the market to benefit farmers.

During the first online auction on August 10 in Phuentsholing, 9.35 metric tonnes of potatoes were traded. There was a price increase of about 6.1 percent and more than 180 bags were traded for Nu 196,750.

FCBL’s marketing advisor, Bhimraj Gurung, said that this system will greatly benefit farmer.

“We are using RSEB’s platform,” he said, and explained that RSEB will do Internet hosting and the price discovery. “We will do it in field once they have done their part.”

Bhimraj Gurung said that they would eventually start online auction for other produce such as cardamom.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing