No potatoes at the SJ auction yard

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Export of potatoes from the eastern region has plummeted with the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) in Samdrupjongkhar being able to auction only about 1,119 metric tonnes (MT) as of yesterday.

This is a drop by about 4,000MT compared with the 5,367MT exported last year.

Complex manager at the auction yard, Sawdev Koirala, said besides the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, potato yield was also less this year.  About 45MT of potatoes were damaged during the lockdown and due to roadblocks, according to the manager. The import ban imposed by the Government of India on Bhutanese potatoes also hampered export.

Unlike in the past, FCBL deployed officials from the auction yard in all the six eastern dzongkhags since July 6 to collect potatoes, as the farmers could not bring it to the yard. They collected the potatoes until October 20.

An auctioneer, Tashi Phuentsho said they collected the potatoes day and night from farmers paying Nu 18 per kilogram (kg) for big red potatoes, Nu 17 for medium and Nu 13 for small. The ministry of agriculture and forest (MoAF) had fixed the price.

He said that it had helped farmers because the transportation charges were borne by the FCBL. “We faced challenges in a few dzongkhags because of the lack of cooperation from concerned officials and loadings were also done by the officials.”

Tashi Phuentsho said people complained about the price and denied to sell at the price fixed by the MoAF as the private exporters offered a better price. “We offered up to Nu 26 per kg for big, Nu 23 for medium and Nu 15 for small depending on the qualities.”

Sawdev Koirala said the FCBL spent about Nu 20.85 million (M) and exported the big potatoes at Nu 30 to Nu 42 per kg, Nu 25 to Nu 30 for medium and Nu 20 to Nu 25 for small potatoes, adding that the private exporters also exported more than 454MT with FCBL facilitating transportation. FCBL earned about Nu 30.50M.”

Sawdev Koirala said the FCBL officials were also engaged in loading and unloading potatoes, as the office did not get loaders.  FCBL paid Nu 30,000 for six labours to load a truckload of potatoes.  They now pay Nu 9,000 for 10MT of big potatoes and Nu 4,500 for small.

“Although potato production is high in India, there is still a high demand for the Bhutanese potatoes, but there are no potatoes left in the dzongkhags now,” the complex manager said.