Bet­ter mar­ket­ing link­ages for potato

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

Potato is the fourth most im­por­tant world food crop after wheat, rice, and maize. In Bhutan potato is cul­ti­vated for do­mes­tic con­sump­tion and con­sid­ered a sta­ple diet. How­ever over the years farm­ers pro­duce it for sale and are con­sid­ered it as main source of in­come.

As per the ear­li­est doc­u­ments avail­able potato reached Bhutan in the 17th cen­tury. Ge­orge Bog­gle, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the East In­dia Com­pany, planted potato at ev­ery place he stopped on his jour­ney to Bhutan and Ti­bet in 1774-75. It is pop­u­larly be­lieved that potato must have spread grad­u­ally through most parts of the coun­try in the 17th and 18th cen­tury.

The potato cul­ti­va­tion has dra­mat­i­cally in­creased in Bhutan after the es­tab­lish­ment of the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture in 1961 and prod­ucts were sold to In­dian mar­kets.

In Bhutan, potato ranks first in terms of vol­ume of agri­cul­ture trade and is placed sec­ond in terms of value of ex­port as next to or­anges. The crop is ide­ally suited to en­vi­ron­ment and cli­matic con­di­tions of Bhutan. The high yield po­ten­tial, af­ford­abil­ity, nu­tri­tional value and con­sumer pref­er­ence for potato has pro­vided tremen­dous im­pact on the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion through in­come and em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion.

But the cul­ti­va­tion has not come too easy and chal­lenges were many. The crop dam­aged by the wild pigs has posed a great threat to the sus- tain­abil­ity of the farm­ers. Ac­cord­ing to the Bhutan Food Strat­egy study it has been given to un­der­stand that about 9% of potato is dam­aged by the wild an­i­mals ev­ery year.

Fur­ther the crop is also ven­er­a­ble to pest and dis­ease. The potato tu­ber moth has posed a se­ri­ous threat to the farm­ers in Eastern Bhutan and farm­ers cover the crop with ferns and banana leaves. On the other parts of the coun­try peo­ple use ash, lemon grass and ex­tracts from other plants to keep the pest at bay.

There are enough chal­lenges with trans­porta­tion and stor­age. There is a need for easy avail­abil­ity of trans­port ser­vices and cold stor­age fa­cil­i­ties for the farm­ers once the crop is har­vested. It is com­mon to see farm­ers wait­ing for 2-3 days at the road head to find a ve­hi­cle to ferry this har­vest to the near­est auc­tion yard.

Poor road in­fra­struc­ture and dis­re­gard for stan­dards such as weight per bag and rough han­dling of pro­duce re­sult in high posthar­vest losses.

In or­der to raise the pro­duc­tion of potato farm­ers must find ways to lower the cost of pro­duc­tion and in­crease the vol­ume, yield and qual­ity through bet­ter pro­vi­sion of in­puts and use of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ser­vices.

This can be done by us­ing im­proved va­ri­ety of seeds and us­ing of im­proved farm­ing tech­nol­ogy.

In other to achieve this, bet­ter mar­ket­ing sys­tems and mar­ket in­for­ma­tion is must along with bet­ter mar­ket link­ages.

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