Officials ask farmer not to hoard the tuber as price could drop further 

Auction: The Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) in Phuentsholing has seen a substantial decrease in the quantity of potato arriving at its auction yard. Corporation’s officials attributed it to hoarding.

Starting from June, the auction yard received 5,412 metric tonnes of potato until September 14 this year. During the same period in 2014, the auction yard received 8,635 metric tonnes (MT) of potatoes.

The highest average auction price today is Nu 17.68 for large- sized potato, while it was Nu 23.96 last year.

FCBL’s records show that potato arrival has declined by 11 percent in June this year. The arrival had further declined by about 32 percent in July.

The corporation’s marketing advisor in Phuentsholing, Bhimraj Gurung said they initiated awareness through the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) in educating potato farmers. A letter was written to the marketing cooperatives.

“As a facilitator we did what we needed to do,” the advisor said. “But people are still not bringing the produce.”

Meanwhile, corporation officials said it was the “bumper harvest in India” that has affected the auction prices in the country. As the price has dropped, farmers across the country could be hoarding the produce expecting of higher prices in the future.

Potato growers last year enjoyed a record high average price of Nu 54. With the growing demand, many farmers even sold potato seeds.

The complex manager at the yard, Puran Tamang said it would not do any good if farmers were hoarding.

“India had huge harvest this year, which is in their cold-storage facilities,” the complex manager said, explaining the market will be flooded with potatoes soon. “Our farmers will not get good auction price.”

Although August was the best time for Bhutanese farmers, Puran Tamang said it was still good to bring the produce at the auction yard at present. By the end of this month, the price may drop.

FCBL office receives a lot of calls enquiring about the price. However, farmers are still waiting for a better price, officials said.

A 50-year-old potato grower from Wanakha, Paro, Sangay Lhamo, said she was unhappy with the decrease in price this year.

“The harvest in our fields have also gone down,” the woman said.  According to Sangay Lhamo, farmers were paid Nu 2,500 for 100 kilograme last year. This year, she said, the price has dropped to between 1,400 and 1,500.

The farmer said the harvest turns out bad the subsequent year following a good one. Sangay Lhamo, meanwhile, still has potatoes stored back home.

In 2014, potato farmers made profitable business due to good prices throughout the season. Although the arrival quantity was lesser compared to the quantity in 2013, FCBL auction yard traded potato worth Nu 543.51 million (M) in 2014.

The auction yard had traded about Nu 337.21M in 2013 with 20,218.59MT of potatoes. A total of 20044.72MT potatoes were auctioned in 2014.

Nepal is the major market with about 70 percent of the total auctioned potatoes traded there. Much of the produce is also taken in Siliguri, India.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing