The vegetable vendors at the Centenary Farmer’s Market (CFM) have appealed to the Prime Minister in regard to the recent increase in the rental and store charges by the CFM management board. The CFM board with the aim to improve the facility in the market has recently approved the revised rental fees for the vendors in accordance with the tenancy act has also approved the need to deposit a nominal security fees along with an agreement for a year.
The minister of agriculture and forestry, Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor, who is also the chairman of the CFM board said that the vendors first approached him, after which he shared the rationale behind the increase and informed that the rental fees will further improve the facilities with the vision to make the market one of the bests in the region for agricultural produce.
“However, it has now come to my knowledge that the vendors have approached the cabinet secretary to appeal further to the prime minister. The cabinet secretary has assured the vendors that the prime minister will be alerted on the matter and couldn’t arrange a meeting given Lyonchhen’s tight schedule then,” said Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor.
Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) has been designated as the lead agency for managing the CFM by the agriculture ministry on 10th August 2009. The head of the CFM board, the Director General of BAFRA, Namgay Wangchuk said that although initially the CFM was constructed mainly for the local farmers to provide a vibrant market for their produce and uplift their lives of the farmers, the market is currently dominated by the vendors aka middleman.
“As we can see today, there are very few local farmers and more of middle-men who purchase vegetables from the local farmers at a very low rate and sell it at substantially higher rates and as envisioned by the ministry, there is no optimum benefit achieved by the local vendors. The increment in the rental and store fees is just a drop in the ocean as compared to the profits earned, and moreover, our sole purpose of increasing the fees are to strengthen the CFM management and ensure financial autonomy which will only benefit the vendors themselves,” said the DG Namgay Wangchuk.
“Some of the vendors who are making hue and cry of the situation earn enormous profit by charging exorbitant prices on the vegetables. When the prices of the vegetables keep increasing, it is not our farmers to be blamed; rather it is the middle-men who making a huge profit from this.” As per the approved rates by the board, the monthly rental fees will come to around Nu. 2080.
Namgay Wangchuk said that the nominal security deposit for a year, which comes to around Nu.6000 is only to ensure that the facilities are not mismanaged and that the vendors do no escape without paying the rental fees.
Vendors are alarmed by the increase in 25-45 percent in the rental fees, but that is just an increase of Nu. 15 or 18 in the fees, said the agriculture minister.
The agriculture minister Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that the revenue generated from the rental charges has been utilized judiciously as per the record.
According to the Director General of BAFRA, the management has received an order from the prime minister to defer the plan to increase the rental and storage fees until February 2019 after the closing of the parliament sessions. “Lyonchhen is expected to study the matter and decide accordingly,” said Namgay Wangchuk.