Farmers of the eastern dzongkhags are happy with potato prices.

This auction time is Samdrupjongkhar, the highest price big potatoes get is Nu 19 per kg. Medium-sized potatoes fetch Nu at least Nu 12, and small ones Nu 10 maximum.

Phuntsho from Yangneer, Trashigang said he has been waiting for three days to auction off his potatoes. “I don’t have anyone in Samdrupjongkhar. I have to take into account the food and lodge expenses.”

He said that he got up to Nu 23 for big and Nu 1,000 per bag for small. While the price for this year is low but he said that he is happy with the prices. “The main problem is taking time to auction off potatoes.”

Phuntsho said he pays at least Nu 90 per bag to transport potatoes to the auction yard. “I cannot afford to pay for the truck, so we bring in groups on cost sharing.”

Another farmer, Sangay Gembo from Jamkhar, Trashiyangtse said he brought 15 bags of potatoes. He had to pay Nu 90 per bag to transport from Jamkhar to the auction yard. “I have a bolero pickup truck. Most of the time, I transport the bags myself.”

Complex manager, Namgay Wangchuk, said the prices are low compared with last year’s because of the availability of potatoes from West Bengal, India. “But the prices for the Bhutanese potatoes are still high.”

He said potatoes are exported to Nepal but they could not this year because of problems in Darjeeling.

“We have announced that this is not the season for the smaller ones and to avoid bringing them to the yard. But people still bring them. We are trying to auction the smaller potatoes but it fetches up to Nu 10 at the most and people are not happy,” Namgay Wangchuk said.

He added since small potatoes are mainly used as seed, they usually auction the smaller ones from September to until December end.

“The price depends on the quality of the potatoes,” Namgay Wangchuk said.

Indian bidder Rustam Haque from Daranga said he has been 18 years in this business and he always opt for Bhutanese potatoes as they are fresh, organic and tasty.

He said the prices this time are low because of the availability of potatoes from West Bengal. “I bought bigger and medium potatoes at Nu 17 and have to pay three percent to Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB), Nu 3.50 for labour and Nu 1.30 per kg carrying charge.”

He added that the poor packaging is also affecting the price of the potatoes and it would help if the farmers pack the potatoes according to their size instead of mixing everything together. “I get Nu 30 profit from 100kgs and Nu 900 from three tonnes. We always opt for Bhutanese potatoes because most of the Indians buy potatoes from Bhutan even if the price is high.”

Kelzang Wangchuk |  Samdrupjongkhar