The gewog has appreciated that processed potatoes fetch far more than the raw deal

Agriculture: Villagers of Dotphu in Udzorong depend on potatoes for a living.

While they previously used to take their potatoes all the way to the Samdrupjongkhar auction yard, however, life has become easier for the people of Udzorong.  They have started manufacturing potato chips.  Almost 70 percent of the total potato yield goes into making chips.

The villagers approached the agriculture extension office with a proposal to form a cooperative to make and marketing potato chips.

“Villagers were upbeat about the idea and all we needed was some training and a chips fryer,” chairman of the cooperative, Tenzin Dorji, said.

In 2013, the cooperative with 12 members started manufacturing chips and marketing in and around Udzorong.  The agriculture department has provided them two chips fryers.

Tenzin Dorji said earnings from selling chips was greater than taking potatoes to Samdrupjongkhar. About 45 packets of chips are produced from 10kgs of potatoes.  A packet of chips weighs 250g and is sold at Nu 20.

“Had it been only potatoes, 10kg would fetch about Nu 250, if the market price is good. With the chips, we’re earning about Nu 900 from the same quantity,” he said.

Every member household sells about 70 sacks of potatoes to the cooperative at Nu 10 per kilogram.  Smaller potatoes are taken to Samdrupjongkhar.

Tashi Lhamo, a member, said that it was difficult when she had to take her potatoes to Samdrupjongkhar. And because of an unstable market, she sold them at rates as low as Nu 8.

“After working hard in the field, we had to depend on the market for our potatoes to fetch a good price. Transportation was another issue,” she said. “With potato chips, if we can sell it, we get paid instantly.”

Another member, Pempa, said that the work involved was a lot easier and income much better. “We didn’t have to invest much. We just collected Nu 100 per member to buy oil and plastics,” he said.

Members start manufacturing chips from May and continue until November.  While some of the chips are sold to the nearby shops, shopkeepers from Khaling and Kanglung buy most of the chips in bulk.  The cooperative has saved Nu 7,000 in one of the banks.

“As long as we can produce, the market is there and it doesn’t cost much to transport the chips,” Tenzin Dorji said. “About five more households will join the cooperative soon.”

The cooperative is also looking forward to selling the smaller potatoes to the recently established Udzorong Central School.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang