In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) issued an official notice banning of import of meat on Monday
Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjore said that the government decided to ban the import meat at this time to contain COVID-19.
“Those packed items can be disinfected, whereas raw items, like meat, vegetables and fruits are all exposed items and we cannot spray disinfection chemicals because it will contaminate the product further,” he said.
Lyonpo said that the ban on meat is effective until further notice.
“Basically, when we are banning the meat import, obviously the quantity of supply in the market will be less which means only the local production will be there in the country. The decision to ban the meat is to contain COVID-19 in the country,” he said.
“We have sent a request notice to the meat vendors not to hike the prices. As a Bhutanese, they have the equal responsibility to harmonize the life of all fellow citizens of the country. So in that nature, first responsibility falls on meat vendors not to hike the price and second responsibility falls on the consumers, to not to buy the meat if the seller increases the price and to report to BAFRA, if seen hiking the price,” he said.
Lyonpo said that the government cannot encourage people to produce meat for consumption in a Buddhist country, and it does not have the authority to either stop or promote meat production.
“By the constitutional rights, if there is someone who is willing to make living out of meat business then the government also have no right to stop them. We cannot stop the local meat production,” he said.
He added that most of the imported meats are processed under unhygienic conditions and can contain diseases. Most of the imported meat comes from the border areas.
“Since the majority of Bhutanese consume meat, the government could not stop the meat and the import continued. Everybody is aware that chicken, pork and anything that is imported in raw form is unhygienic, and still we like to consume it. In the country there is one beef producer, which is in Tsirang and other meats like chicken, pork are produced by the farmers across the country,” he added.
According to the Bhutan Agriculture Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), the existing frozen or dried meat stocks with meat vendors can be sold but fresh import will not be allowed.
Meanwhile, the meat shops in the capital are closed even though the holy month is over.
A meat vendor based in Thimphu said that the orders usually come from the hotels and restaurants, but it is of no use in opening the meat shops at this point when the import of meat is banned.
Tseten, a restaurant owner in Zangdopelri Shopping Complex, Thimphu said, “With the outbreak of the disease, there is less number of customers visiting the restaurant. Now with the ban on imported meat, it will be difficult for us to attract those customers because some customers only consumes beef,” he said, adding that he is planning to close the restaurant till the situation gets to normal.