Vegetable vendors in Gelephu are doing brisk business despite the border closure. However, on the consumer side, people said that they are having a hard time managing with the escalating vegetable prices. Previously people used to buy vegetables and other products from across border in Daadgari at much lower prices.
Gelephu Thrompon, Tikaram Khafley, said that the border closure has benefitted the shopkeepers but the buyers might be feeling the pinch given the current high prices.
A businessman in Gelephu, Palden, said that it is hurting his budget to shop for vegetables at the current high prices. He said that previously, he and his family would buy certain items for about Nu 60 to Nu 80 from across the border but due to the COVID-19 situation the same items cost as much as Nu 400 or higher.
He said, “Previously, I could do the entire week’s vegetable shopping with Nu 500. But right now just buying a few kilos of tomatoes and chilies costs the same.”
He added that households that earn less will be having a tough time.
Thrompon said, “Overall, I think people are at least happy and have a notion towards investing within Bhutan which keeps the money floating around in the Bhutanese economy itself. And from a bigger perspective, it has to be understood that even going forward post COVID-19, we keep the trend alive for the betterment of our economy as much as possible.”
Thrompon said that the consumers have to take a shared responsibility in terms of price rise at this moment as shopkeepers, especially the vegetable vendors, are also paying more than they would normally for transportation and other charges.
He said activities are going on in Gelephu, is as close as possible to normal times.
“In terms of vegetable production, the southern region faces a hard challenge of growing crops due to heavy rainfall, and therefore, we do not expect much yield at this time but hopefully by August or September, we can safely say that there will be a lot of vegetables production”
Yangden, 34, a shopkeeper at the Gelephu Vegetable Market said that normally during summers, Bhutanese consumers preferred to go to Daadgari for vegetable shopping, and in winters, the Indian neighbors would come and purchase from Bhutan.
Another vegetable vendor, Dorji Dema, 43, said, “I think there has been a decline in our customers overall, because Indian workers are not here like before, and even restaurants are closed who used to be a major part of our buyers.”
She said currently onions, dried chilies, bitter gourd, ladyfinger and watermelon are being imported from Falakata, and the other vegetables are brought in from Thimphu.
Thrompon said that currently thanks to the taskforce arrangements for such vegetables that cannot be grown at this time, like onions, tomatoes and few others are being made available for import for the local vendors.
He said, “Due to such arrangements, we have to understand that there will certainly be a rise in cost, and as consumers, we need to pay for it.”