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Online potato auction does tidy business

The potato online auction system, which Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCB) started formally earlier this month is doing well.

Within 12 days of operation, about 60 Metric Tons (MT) of potato worth around Nu 0.82mn was sold through the online auction process.

Curious farmers and bidders are now planning to shift to online auctioning versus the open auction yard to save time. Once the online auction is complete, the product is lifted immediately from the yard.

Though there are only 12 registered bidders as of now, the number of bidders are likely to increase with more enquires on the system and its operation recently.

FCB has started receiving calls daily on the operation from farmers and bidders. Standardized packaging and grading has led to export of the product to Nepal and Siliguri in West Bengal.

FCB procures packaging bags from Kolkata with both FCB and Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan Limited (RSEBL) logos printed at Nu 40 per piece.

The overall price though has not improved compared to the old open auction. The final amount is expected to increase once the whole volume of product is sold at once in the online auction.

In the open shout-out auction, despite the increase in bid price, bidders would not buy the whole lot therefore the online auction has an advantage.

“As online auctioned product is sold at once, the profit margin increases for the farmers unlike in the open auction yard,” said the Online Auction Manager of FCB, Purna Bahadur Tamang.

Grading and packaging for wet and uncured potato is however a challenge for FCB’s online marketing as the product sticks to the machine and also rots after packaging. FCB staffs have advised farmers to complete curing process of potato, which takes around three weeks after cultivation.

“Doing so, we will not face problems grading and the product also lasts longer,” said Purna Bahadur Tamang. The corporation is now looking for a new grading machine with a drier so that wet potatoes can be dried before grading and packing.

The potato grading machine installed at the auction yard grades the potato into four different categories. The potato season starts from May to December; August to October is considered the peak season.

FCB has been receiving feedback and suggestions on its operations and the authority expects RSEBL to provide additional facilities. Last year, as a pilot project, FCB sold around 316.45MT of potatoes worth Nu 9.4mn.

Phub Jamtsho, a farmer from Punakha has opted for online auctioning as he expects better price. He has already deported 520 bags of potato to Phuentsholing’s online auction yard. “I heard we get a good sum while selling through online auction. I brought my produce here for trial,” he said adding that he will opt for online auction if profits are as expected.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing

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