Quality of potato seedlings blamed for poor harvest

Agriculture: Potato growers in Tashi Gatshel village of Bjachho gewog in Chukha are unhappy about this year’s poor harvest. Their stand is that the Tashi Agriculture Sales and Services (TASS) distributed poor quality seedlings this year.

Although potato prices have generally dropped down across the country, it is the harvest villagers say was the major problem. Only half of what they produced in preceding years, has been reaped this year, according to the villagers.

A 41-year-old woman, Tongshim, said she was able to harvest about 45 to 50 bags of potatoes worth Nu 30,000 in 2014 with seven bags of potato seedlings.

“I could harvest only 20 bags worth Nu 10,000 this year with the same amount of seedlings,” she said. “The bad quality seedlings have affected the production this year.”

Another Tashi Gatshel woman, Dawa Gyem is equally disheartened about the quality of seedlings and the harvest this year. She spent Nu 13,000 in buying 10 bags of seedlings, however, she generated just Nu 15,000 from selling what was harvested.

Phub Gyem, another potato grower, said whatever she had earned this year had been spent in transportation charges and other expenditures in transporting the vegetable. There was no profit.

The problem villagers said were the potato seedlings, which they bought from TASS. A bag of potato seedling was bought for Nu 1,300 per bag.

Complaining against the representative and quality of potato seedlings, one annoyed villager said she was surprised to see two bags of seedlings she had bought from the agency mixed with “white, small and weak potatoes”.

Another villager added that the bags were mixed with both bad and good seedlings.

Although some growers do not want to complain about the agency distributing poor quality seedlings, some say they do not want to deal with the agency anymore.

Tashi Gatshel tshogpa Sangay Zam, who also raised the issue during the September dzongkhag tshogdu this year said villagers suffered losses this time.

“We complained about it right at the beginning when we bought the seedlings,” the tshogpa, who is also a potato grower, said, adding that the seedlings were soft and weak that rotted easily. “As a result of what had transpired, we have planned to buy on our own.”

Today, Sangay Zam and two other tshogpas, including herself have already consulted with the potato growers and agreed not buy from the agency. Instead, they have already bought seedlings from Chapcha.

After consultation with the villagers, the tshogpas have already started to distribute the seedlings at the same rate to interested growers.

Meanwhile, TASS representative Tashi said the seedlings and fertilizers are all bought from Druk Seeds in Paro.

“Some seedlings have shown good results, while some did not,” the representative said. “It also depends on the weather.”

This time around, Tashi explained the weather has not been favourable for the whole Bjachho gewog.

Another explanation, he said was the mechanism villagers consider in plantation. It depends on how systematically villagers work in the fields, including care.

According to Tashi, some villagers of Tashi Gatshel also had bought seedlings from Shemazengkha about two years ago. The harvest was both good and bad, like the harvest from seedlings bought from the agency.

Rajesh Rai, Tshimasham

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