Govt agrees to open CFM after vendors says not able to sell vegetables

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering announced that the existing CFM will always remain a farmer’s market.

However, for now they will ensure only one third of the existing cubicles remain open to serve the people of that area. It will open from Wednesday.

He did he would like to update everyone that the construction of cubicles at the Multi-level Car Parks in Thimphu that will host the vegetable sellers is halfway complete. 

The PM said he has been told that the thromde will allocate the completed ones starting today, and priority will be given to interested vendors from the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM).

“Social distancing is critical, but we all know that place has seen the biggest crowd, especially during weekends, despite all awareness and monitoring,” said the PM.

He said while the option of the car park is temporary, what is permanent is the construction of five similar structures under thromde and the vegetable outlets in over 40 zones. These open up slots for more than 300 vendors.

Realising the need to protect the business interest of the CFM vendors, he said the PMO requested thromde to give preference to them first.

“We said their moving out of CFM could be temporary, until social distancing was not an issue over time, or for good if their businesses do well at the new locations,” said the PM.

He said other option was to introduce 300 additional vendors who could be competing to cater to the same number of Thimphu residents.

The PM said he personally thought that will kill the market for the CFM vendors.

“We meant well for them because at CFM, the gathering in terms of number of sellers and buyers, will have to be severely restricted for next few years. In the event of a positive COVID-19 case from there, we will have to resort to closing down or lock down of the area that will gravely impact the businesses,” said the PM.

He said the vegetable outlets in the zones will be complete within the two months deadline.

The CFM vendors, including the ones moving to Multi-Level Car Parks, will once again be given the priority to operate those shops in the zones.

“Meanwhile, my concern remains with the present CFM vendors, who, despite all good intentions are being fed with information that may not help them make right decisions,” said the PM.

“If they do not want to move out from the existing infrastructure under any circumstances, if they are agreeable to the conditions imposed, if they do not mind the entry of over 300 new vendors, we will have it so,” he added.

He said he is also certain these same lot of vendors will come to his office six months down the line, saying their businesses are affected, their livelihood harmed. Since the vendors were made to sell their vegetables in different zones after the closure of Centenary Farmers Market, the CFM vendors says that there is no proper structure built in zones to sell their produces.

CFM Tshogpa Dendup says that nobody is willing to operate their businesses in zones and neither in MLCPs. He said that most of the vendors are women and they are the ones who are struggling to sell their produces.

“The vendors have decided that they will not sell their vegetables till they are made to run their business in CFM again. Most of the CFM vendors are women and mostly single mothers. They are suffering since there is no proper place to sell their produce,” he said.

He said that he has been receiving complaints from vendors about the area in zones and MLCPs.

“The vendors’ complaint that there is no tray neither a house to keep their produces in the zones and about the MLCPs the area is poor ventilated. In between the vendors are struggling with the decision made by the government,’ he said.

He also said that before issuing sudden notification, the Thromde should have made everything ready for vendors to operate their businesses in zones.

“If they wanted us to operate businesses in different areas they should have built the structures and made everything ready before announcing,” he said.

 Sonam a vegetable vendor said, “How can we sell our produces when there is no tray to keep our vegetables. The government should think twice before letting us operate in zones.”

He said that the vendors have decided that they will not operate their businesses in zones until CFM opens again.

“We are forced to vacate CFM and go to the designated zones. A vendor like me comes from far off places and we are given different zones where there are no storage facilities. We are not going to sell our produces until CFM opens,” he said.

Another vendor Tshering said that she has lost her customer since she started selling in Babesa.

“The business has dropped since people do not visit the area and I have to come from my home till Babesa carrying my produce and it is difficult for women like me who don’t have a car. The area also doesn’t have a structure and sometimes I carry vegetables in the basket and go door to door to sell it,” she said.

Dago, 60 from Punakha said that the farmers who bring their produces to CFM are confused about where to take their vegetables.

“Usually I bring my vegetables to CFM and then the vendors will come and buy it. Now we are confused where to sell or take our produces. We are confused whether to take it to MLCPs or the zones,” he said, adding that the vegetables are in the field and they are rotting.

Following a notification, on September 11, 2020, from the Prime Minister’s Office CFM remained closed, Vendors took part in a “lucky draw” for the new locations where they were made to sell their vegetables from.

The Thromde meanwhile is working on building some structures in the zones.

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