Potatoes selling at half the price of last year

Business: The mood among farmers of eastern Bhutan, who are in Samdrupjongkhar to sell their potato, is as gloomy as the weather with potato not fetching expected price this year at the auction yard.

Although, production was good despite experiencing an early monsoon, price has almost halved compared to last year. Auction began since June but the price, which usually increases this time of the year, is sliding.

Price average between Nu 13 and 15 for red potatoes compared to Nu 18 to 25 per kg, last year. Price of white potato has not crossed Nu 12 compared to last year’s Nu 15.

The first truck that had come on the first day of opening, according to farmers, was the only one who had fetched Nu 18 per kg but after that the price has remained low.

Officials at the auction yard attributed the low price to better production in West Bengal in India. Price of potato in Samdrupjongkhar is determined by production in the neighbouring Indian estates.

“As price in India is relatively low, most of the bidders are buying Indian potatoes that are sold at Rs eight per kg on an average,” he said. “The bidders are finding our potatoes expensive.”

About 18 metric tonnes of potatoes are auctioned every day. The official said with good production in India, they are selling only fresh potatoes right now and they still have to cold-store potatoes.

“But we’re expecting the price to increase once the partners in Siliguri, India start buying potatoes from Bhutan that would be exported to Nepal,” official said, adding that following the earthquake in Nepal, buyers from Nepal have not started importing potatoes.

The official added if this happens than two trucks of potatoes alone would go to Nepal.

Farmers are worried that they won’t be able to take even 50 percent of the money they will earn after paying for transport, hotel and other expenditure while in Samdrupjongkhar.

Many said after seeing good price last year, they worked hard and protected the crop from wildlife, as it was good source of cash income.

Each farmer on an average brings about 80 bags of potatoes, each weighing 55kg. They are hoping the price would increase before the auction season ends by December.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar