Cabbages bought at Nu 19 per Kg from farmers and sold at Nu 5.5 per Kg
According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) Limited, Naiten Wangchuk, the COVID-19 pandemic is severely affecting the export business.
“Export is becoming difficult in the course of COVID-19. Without export, we will not be able to reap the economic benefits. Last year we exported 5,000 metric tons of vegetables, and this year it will be difficult because of the disruption. Every time we may not reap the profit because sometime if the market is bad, just like current situation, the price may come down, much lower than the base price,” he said.
Agriculture and Forests Minister Yeshey Penjor added export has become challenging because of the pandemic.
“Our major market is in India and lockdown has begun in West Bengal starting Thursday so it will become difficult to export the vegetables,” Lyonpo added.
FCB has already announced to the farmers to not bring their vegetables to Damchu for the time being as it will just be a waste.
“Vegetables will be safer in the field. When the border opens we hope that we can export. If lockdown happens, it will be difficult to export,” the CEO said.
He said that said that FCB is carrying out e-Auction for the vegetables to avoid people gathering amid COVID-19.
“Every year we carry out the auction, and from May till November is an auction season. We carry out auction for vegetables. Due to COVID-19, all the borders are closed and we have started doing online auction. This time we are trying to procure vegetables from the source. In the past, the farmers bring their vegetables for auction during the season, but to avoid large gatherings, we are going to the source and collecting from them,” he said.
He added that FCB has collected cabbages from the farmers at Nu 19 per kilogram (kg) and landed up selling at Nu 5.5 per kg.
Cabbage at the CFM is being sold at Nu 40 per kg.
“It is a big loss and it is a reality of the market. Sometime you go on a profit and sometime you go on a loss. We cannot store the vegetable for long since it is perishable so we have to sell of the product at the given price. And that has been going on for many decades,” he said, adding that previously they had more than a hundred bidders and now they have only 48 bidders.
He also added that FCB has collected cabbages, radishes, beetroots, potatoes, green peas, beans, carrots, green chilies and cauliflowers from the farmers till date.
“We have spent Nu 11.206 mn for buying these vegetables from the farmers till date,” he said.
Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that the government has fixed the price by working at cost of production on each item and added 20 percent profit margin at least for the farmers to encourage them to continue with the farming.
“Farmers are expecting to make profit, and for the government, we are trying to prevent the farmers going into loss. We also checked the price fetched from auctioning on the past five years’ trend, and we have taken out the average from it and then came with the prices,” the Agriculture Minister said.
Lyonpo further said, “Export has become very difficult and because of this we are not able to offer good price in the Buyback and the government is risking losses from the degradation of vegetables brought from the farmers, and they have to understand.”