Absence of foreign labourers, no tourists, excess production and home delivery impacts vegetable sales

As the country focuses on producing local vegetables amid COVID-19, the vegetables vendors at the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) stated that their business has gone down due to absence of foreign labourers, people ordering the vegetables and fruits online and excess production.

Dechen Dema, 38, said that most of her vegetables are unsold and rotten to be discarded later.

“It is already the vegetable season, and chilies and cabbages have flooded the market. As I am not able to sell all the vegetables, I give it to the monasteries and the rotten and damaged ones go into the dustbins,” she said.

She said that foreign laborers used to shop in large numbers, especially on Sunday, but most of them have left the country.

“Most of the buyers were the laborers and they have already left for their countries. We no longer see them shopping,” she said.

Tshering Choden, 30, brings vegetables from Punakha and sells a sack of chilies at Nu 500.

“On Wednesday and Friday, I bring my vegetables in the CFM and I also get orders from the restaurants. One sack contain around 23 kilogram of chilies,” she said, adding that chilies have grown well this year since there was a continuous rainfall.

With most hotels shut and restaurants not doing well a major source of customers for vegetables in the form of tourists and those eating out are gone.

A vegetable vendor in CFM, Kuenzang Choden, 32, from Punakha said that the online home delivery services have become popular among the people.

“We have lost our customers as only a few visit the vegetable market because many of them are purchasing from online services,” she said.

She said that they are not able to sell the vegetables on time and it gets damaged.

“Usually it takes around two to three days to sell out all the vegetables, and now it takes a week to clear out all the vegetables, like tomatoes, cabbage and chilies. The vegetables get rotten and we throw them in the dustbin,” she said.

She said that there is also over production of cabbage, chilli and radish at the moment.

“Currently a few vegetable, like chilies, cabbage and radish are flooding the market. I sell cabbage at Nu 40 per kilo and chilli at Nu 50 per kilo. We are bringing these vegetables from Paro, Punakha and Chukha,” she said.

Another vendor, Devi Maya, said that the number of customers visiting CFM has decreased compared to the last few months.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjore said that anything that is not consumed in the country would be exported. FCBL is mandated to implement the Buyback Scheme for excess farm produce.

“Anything that is coming in large scale, which needs export attention, we have already supported FCBL with financial resources to look after the export part,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that over production should not be an issue as all the measures are put in place to address it.

“We have 24 items of vegetables which are produced in bigger quantity. And the excess vegetables will be exported to other countries,” the Agriculture Minister said.

Lyonpo said that the government has requested the vendors and BAFRA to limit the import of vegetables in accordance to the scale of local production, and FCBL will collect any bulk production from respective sites and export through e-Auction.

“Through electronic visioning, FCBL will see the products electronically and then quote a price for it and then decided to buy. FCBL will export it to other countries. And for the vegetables that we can consume within the country, we have a vegetable management team that is networking with all these things,” Lyonpo said, adding that networking is the important key so that it will be easier to collect vegetables from different places and take where it is needed.

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