Bidders are unhappy that the farmers of the six eastern dzongkhags are selling their potatoes at the Garage and Mela Bazar in Assam, India instead of taking the produce to the Samdrupjongkhar auction yard.

A bidder from India, Rustam Haque, 43, said these days people have started selling their potatoes across the border and not the auction yard. “I think this is against the rules and regulation of the auction yard.”

He said their customers do not buy potatoes from them as the brokers who buy potatoes at Garage and Mela Bazar supply the crop at a cheaper rate affecting the market. “I use to supply two to three trucks of potatoes before but I could not supply even a truck today,” Rustam said.

Rustam said he buys a minimum of 150 to 200 sacks of potatoes and depending on demand, supplies to Dupguri and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, Rangia and Guwahati in Assam. “We are losing interest in this business and have to stop it if it continues and no actions are taken,” he said.

Promoid Soikoi, 60, said he has never seen such issues arise in his last 30 years of potato business

“I manage to supply only one to two bolero pick up trucks today but it also depends on the demand. I think we have to stop buying potatoes from the auction yard and start buying at Garage and Mela Bazar if it’s legal,” Promoid said.

Farmer Sonam Jamthso, 43, from Trashiyangtse, said he has been waiting for three days to unload his potatoes at the auction yard.

“I am worried the potatoes would rot,” he said. “We opt to take our potatoes to Garage and Mela Bazar as we have to wait for more than a week to get our potatoes auctioned at the yard and it does not fetch good price because by then the potatoes are rotten. “

He said, it is  not easy for them to stay in the hotel for days in Samdrupjongkhar.

Sonam Jamtsho said that farmers in the east would benefit if Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (FCBL) could explore the market and invite new bidders.

Tenzin Dorji, 36, said he sold his potatoes to one of the brokers at Garage for a lump sum price of Nu 90,000 because there were more than 10 trucks waiting to unload at auction yard. “I could not wait because it’s a loss for us and no one compensates for the rotten potatoes.” He brought 100 sacks of potatoes from Trashiyangtse.

FCBL’s regional manager, Pema Wangchuk, said the farmers do not take their potatoes but the brokers take potatoes to Garage and Mela Bazar and sell at a lump sum rate which is cheaper than the rates offered at the auction yard. “It affects the bidders and the market but we can’t help.”

He said farmers can take their potatoes anywhere and it’s not necessary to bring it to the auction yard. But he said, bringing the produce to the auction yard has the benefit of payments being made on time and we could also maintain records of the potatoes produced yearly.

To stop the brokers from taking their potatoes to Garage and Mela Bazar, Pema Wangchuk said they have proposed for a closed-circuit television (CCTV) at the auction yard and also informed police and customs at the border gate. “We are also planning to organise an awareness programme with the brokers,” he said.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar