CFM to be transformed and not closed: Agriculture Minister

Meanwhile, CFM will operate under one-third of its capacity until the zone construction activities are completed

According to the Agriculture and Forests Minister, Yeshey Penjor, the plan to decongest the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) has been approved by the Cabinet, but is yet to be implemented. Lyonpo said they are mindful not to displace the fruit and vegetable vendors. Some have been assigned their designated zones out of the CFM to sell their produce.

“Thimphu Thromde intends to build a two-storey building in Motithang and other areas, but it will take some time. And, especially during the COVID-19 era, they are unable to import labour. And until then, CFM will operate under one-third capacity. We’re asking the vendors to cooperate and move to the designated areas. We told them that we are not pushing them immediately, but rather gradually,” the Agriculture Minister said.

The ministry intends to transform the ground floor of the CFM into an aggregation and transaction center for local farm produce from the 20 dzongkhags. And a zone market will be on the upper level.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that CFM is a risky place for shoppers to gather as even a small incident in that area will affect everyone, especially during weekends.

Lyonpo said that the vendors misunderstood and believed they would be leaving CFM on 1 July.

“The vendors have misunderstood the situation. We merely informed them. This does not imply that they must move by 1 July,” Lyonpo said.

“We need to decentralize because there are about 400 vendors in CFM, and we have one-to-one customer, there will be 400 customers and 400 vendors in that area, which is a threat, and if an earthquake strikes, it will be a risk. As a result, heading to the zones is important, and the vendors should be aware of this. We’ll do our best to help, and we’ll stay in contact with the Thromde,” he added.

He added that decentralizing would aid in the containment of the virus as well as the reduction of traffic congestion and emission.

“I told the vendors that it will be best for them to switch to zones because in the long run, as the city expands, it would become more decentralized, which is in line with international standards,” Lyonpo added.

There are vendors who claim that there is no space in zone shops as the new vendors are given the space. However, Lyonpo said such a claim is just an excuse for the vendors who do not want to move out of CFM. When Thromde was questioned about this, they said that the vendors did not show up despite repeated calls, and that the spaces were offered to new applicants, Lyonpo further said.

Lyonpo said, “Many people want the CFM area, but my interest as chairman of the CFM board and as Minister of Agriculture and Forests is to protect that space for renewable natural resources, even though it is primarily for vegetables and fruits, we also have a cereal section and other items such as sang and poe. And we should gradually stop allowing imported products into CFM because it is a market for our farmers, and our farmers’ products should take precedence.”

Meanwhile, a vendor in CFM, Dema, said, “I received a call from Thimphu Thromde office regarding the notice for vendors to operate our businesses from zones. I am confused as to where I will be placed. I don’t want to leave because I have been operating my business in CFM for 15 years now. And also they won’t allow us to operate in the zones where we want to.”

She said that MLCP shop space did not work out and vendors have left the place, She is now worried that the shop zones will also not work out as shoppers prefer to shop in CFM.

Another vendor, Tshering, said that she was not informed on the decision, as there is no formal notification. “I am worried that if I move to other zone, I will lose my customers and also lose the business due to lack of customers,” she said.

She said that the government should not allow any new vendor in CFM, and should close it. “It will not be fair if a new vendor gets to run business in CFM since we have been operating for decades and its our home,” she said.

A vegetable vendor, Tshomo, said, “I think the zoning system is a good initiative. For those of us living far away from CFM, we can operate from our given zones near our residence. We do not have to transport the produce far away and to the CFM, we can directly bring the vegetables to the zone.”

She added that it is also safe because in CFM different people visit the market and people do not maintain distance and there will be high chance of getting infected.

There are 15 mini and 97 medium vegetables sheds in the zones. 

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