Bumthang farmers ask for a potato auction yard

Farmers in Bumthang are busy harvesting potatoes. The harvest comes after five months of hard work and guarding against wild boars, pest and unfavorable weather. As the farthest dzongkhag from the auction yard in Phuentsholing, most of them say there is a need for an auction yard in the locality.

Most of the farmers finished harvesting. Some even started transporting it to Phuentsholing. Farmers say they face difficulties in transporting their product to Phuentsholing, especially during the monsoon.

Lham Dorji from Dhur said they sometimes have to spent around three to four days to reach the auction yard due to roadblocks. "By the time we reach there, the potatoes get damaged, affecting the price."

He said they have to incur huge expenditure, as they have to stay in hotels until all formalities are completed and they receive payment.

Tshewang Dorji from Takar village in Chummey said they have to spend about Nu 20,000 to take a truckload of potatoes to Phuntsholing. "We would be grateful if an auction yard is set up in Bumthang".

Difficulty in transporting the potatoes to the auction yard and human-wildlife conflict are discouraging farmers from growing potatoes, according to farmers.

Rinzin Lhamo said that of the eight households in the village who grows potatoes, only two have cultivated potatoes this year.

Unpredictable and unfavorable weather condition is also another factor that discourages people.

Chief executive officer of Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB), Naiten Wangchuk, said farmers in Bumthang preferred bringing potatoes to Phuentsholing than having an auction yard in Bumthang during a consultation meeting last year.

"During the meeting, we discussed installation of a grading machine and construction of a warehouse for them," he said.

The CEO said that people told them that they go to Phuentsholing every winter to buy rations. "They felt potatoes also fetched better prices here."

However, farmers say only few would prefer to go to Phuentsholing to sell their produce.

Naiten Wangchuk said that there are possibilities of introducing an online auctioning system from various potato-growing districts in the future. "Building a potato auction facility with a warehouse and grading machine costs about Nu 25 million."

He said unlike the conventional auctioning system, we could have a warehouse and grading machines installed and come up with the online auctioning system where people do not have to be physical present.

The CEO said for the online system, both central and local government should extend support and FCBL will put all efforts to have such kind of system in place.

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