Farmers harvest potatoes in Deurali of Panchthar. Photo: Giriraj Baskota/ Republica
PANCHTHAR, Sept 3: Despite having immense prospects, commercial farming of potato is yet to begin in hilly areas of eastern Nepal.
Hilly and high hilly areas in eastern Nepal are considered suitable for potato farming. These areas have relatively better access to market compared to other hilly areas of the country. However, no concrete efforts are being made to promote large-scale farming of this tuber crop.
Rajkumar Rai, a farmer of Falelung, said that the government does not seem much concerned about promoting commercial farming of potatoes. According to Rai, potatoes produced in hilly areas also reach to markets in neighboring India.
Another farmer Sanjay Rai said local farmers are content with sustenance farming so far. “We are aware that there is demand for potatoes produced in our area in other districts as well as India. But we are not able to increase production in large scale due to lack of manpower,” he said, adding: “Also, we do not want to take risk as we do not know whether our product will find market.”
Potatoes produced in farms near Mechi Highway reach to markets in different tarai districts as well as India. Traders buy potatoes at farm by paying Rs 50 per kg.
Local farmers say they are ready to start commercial farming of potatoes if they get grants, technical support and market assurance from the government.
As most of the farmers are doing sustenance farming, the district needs to import potatoes from other districts as local production cannot meet demand in the market.
Sagar Bista, chief of Agriculture Knowledge Centre, Panchthar, told Republica that his office was preparing to take some initiatives to increase production of potato.
According to the center, potato farming is done in 2,100 hectares of land in the district. Summer potato is grown in 1,424 hectares, while winter potato is cultivated in 675 hectares. The district produces 18,740 tons of potatoes in summer and 8,818 tons in winter season.