As one of the means to intensify crop production, the Department of Agriculture is promoting potato cultivation in the southern Dzongkhags during the off-season. Although trade balance in potato is in favour of Bhutan, this activity was also targeted at reducing the dependency of households on potato imports in the short term, and that of the nation in the long term.
In 2012, after a request from the Geog Agriculture Officer (GAO) and RNR EC Agriculture Sector to the National Potato Program, five tonnes of seed potatoes were distributed to around 153 households in Norbugang geog in Samtse. Although a formal survey was not carried out, farmers were positive about growing potatoes in the off-season. One main impact mentioned was the income saved from not having to buy potatoes from across the border.
In 2014, the National Potato Program distributed 37 tonnes of seed potatoes which included eight tonnes to Norbugang where it was distributed to 320 households.
In Norbugang, along with the seeds, farmers were given instructions on pre-sprouting and irrigation. They were specifically instructed to irrigate and keep soil moist to keep away red ants. The farmers have started harvesting in February2015 and many have reported good yields. Some had even sold in the local market for Nu. 30 to 40 per kilogram. A detailed survey to assess the impact will be carried out in April once the harvest is completed and submitted to relevant authorities.
-Submitted by Samtse DAO, Norbugang GAO and Kinley Wangmo, RNR EC Agriculture Sector
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