SURKHET, Aug 15: Surkhet district imports potatoes worth Rs 300,000 from India every day as local production is not sufficient to meet the demands of the district. The district is self-sufficient in other vegetable products except potato and onion, according to Surkhet Vegetable and Fruit Traders Association.
“The production of potato is very low and does not meet the demand even in the potato harvesting season,” said Prabal Shahi, chairperson of the association.
Potatoes imported from India cost Rs 35 per kg in the district. Apart from India, the district also imports potatoes from Dailekh and Jumla. But potatoes from Dailekh district are expensive than from other districts, according to the traders.
Potatoes imported from Dailekh and Jumla are costlier than those imported from India. “The cost of potatoes per kg imported from Dailekh is around Rs 50 compared to Rs 35 per kg imported from India,” said Shahi, adding that the demand of Indian potatoes is higher as consumers prefer low cost potatoes.
Indian potatoes are supplied to other hilly district as well, according to the traders. Potatoes imported from Jumla could have been the alternative to the Indian potatoes but smooth supply is not possible due to transportation woes due to rough terrain, traders said.
“In rainy season, vehicular movement in Jumla highway comes to a halt due to obstruction caused by floods and landslides,” according to Shahi. “Potatoes get rotten if the vehicles have to wait for weeks on the way and traders do not take risk,” he added.
The cost of potatoes imported from Jumla stands at Rs 40 per kg in Surkhet, said Laxman Devkota, a local vegetable trader. “If there wasn't any hurdle in transportation, potatoes from Jumla could have taken the market here,” he told Republica.
Surkhet produces only 60 percent of potatoes compared to the demand in the district, according to District Agriculture Development Office. The office said it is mulling to launch a program to motivate farmers to get involved in potato farming in the days to come.