Bhutan turns to tech to up potato exports

Potatoes are one of Bhutan’s main exports, with the small country exporting 24,970 tons of potatoes in 2018, mos of which went to India. The nation has a conventional auction system for its produce in border towns with India, with potatoes by far the main commodity at the auction block.

Potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and peppers in bulk line the floors at these sites, waiting for traders and the auctioneer to arrive. Just like you might expect, the auctioneer announces the initial price and counts to three for other offers until a deal is made.

There was space to enhance its auction system, though, by improving the quality and packaging of the potatoes Bhutan puts up for sale, making prices more competitive and shortening the transaction times for farmers. These changes have the same goal: getting growers the most for their harvest.

With enhancement in mind, the country tackled these improvements in partnership with the Enhanced Integrated Framework, adding machines to grade potatoes that are then packed in designed bags that go up for sale at online auctions.

Two potato grading machines were procured, each with a capacity of 20 tons per hour per machine. These machines, which aid with the sorting of harvests, are now at Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd.’s auction yard in Phuntsholing, just at the Indian border. The machines have reduced potato processing times from four days to four hours.

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