FM commits Nu 20M for potato auction services

To expedite potato auction services in Phuentsholing, finance minister Namgay Tshering has committed Nu 20 million (M) to procure two grading machines during his recent visit.

The mini-dry port in the town, which has been completed at the beginning of the year, has also been identified as a new and temporary parking space.

Officials from the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) said the two grading machines would be installed at the dry port.

Lyonpo also announced to the people at the auction yard that around this time next year, four grading machines along with a warehouse would be constructed at various strategic locations.

The temporary space was also identified to solve the problem of unsafe parking.

FCBL officials also said that the decision was taken after consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

The mini-dry port would be used for this auction season. It has the capacity to accommodate 45 trucks but it can house more than 50 trucks.

FCBL’s head of agriculture and marketing department, Tshering Dorji, said truckers used the parking space located below the sewerage tank adjacent to the border town. “It was unsafe but we had no other choice. The mini dry port is spacious, safe and convenient.”

Meanwhile, more trucks bring potatoes to Phuentsholing in October and November, landing up waiting three to five days before unloading their produce. In 2017, farmers and truckers faced a major challenge as hundreds of trucks with potato loads waited for days and weeks before they could auction. Potatoes were left on the roadsides near FCBL, unattended. Thefts and rotting were reported.

FCBL identified two parking lots later to solve the problem. However, the parking space near the sewerage area still remained a challenge owing to its proximity near the border.

The director of corporate business, Dorji Tashi, said that with the dry port as the new parking space, farmers would be able to unload their produce on time and return to bring another round of load without having to wait with no commercial engagement.

“Having grading machines and warehouse facilities constructed at the source would help farmers, as they do not have to do manual segregation, which is time-consuming and labour intensive,” he said.

Most of the potatoes at FCBL auction yard in Phuentsholing come from Phobjikha, Wangdiphodrang, Chapcha, Chukha, and Jabana in Paro.

Farmers segregate potatoes prior to transporting to Phuentsholing and spend around Nu 350 to Nu 500 per person in this process. With the grading machines, such costs would be reduced. After grading, farmers also trade their produce online, which is efficient and beneficial to farmers.

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