The vegetable vendors at the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) in Thimphu are doing brisk business selling local vegetables and other farm produce. They have an edge over the other vendors selling imported vegetables from India as the local farm produce is fresh and some are rated organic. Most shoppers prefer to buy the wide variety of home grown produce.
The local farm produce is slowly replacing the need to import vegetables. This is a sign of progress made to accelerate local vegetable production and marketing by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
These days, the prices for most local vegetables are lower than the imported vegetables, except for tomatoes and onions. The cost of the vegetables supplied to Thimphu by the Food Corporation of Bhutan in Phuentsholing saw an increase this week, for instance, a kilogram of tomatoes priced at Nu 35 last week, is now Nu 50 per kg this week, and similarly a kilogram of chilies selling at Nu 40 last week has doubled in price at Nu 80 per kg this week.
Therefore, the increase in the price of imported vegetables drives the customers to shop on the upper storey floor of the CFM, where local vegetables and fruits are sold. Meanwhile, the vendors on the ground floor of the CFM that sell the imported vegetables are finding less customers buying from their stalls.
According to Tshomo, 32, a vendor selling imported vegetable, she has had to sell the vegetables supplied from Phuentsholing at a slightly higher rate during the summers as most of vegetables spoil quickly. “We need to recover the loss we encounter,” she said.
She added that the summer heat destroys most of the vegetables during transportation and there are fewer varieties to sell during the summer months and the lack of freshness also hampers their business.
The customers shopping at the CFM said that the local farm produce are cheaper compared to the ones supplied from Phuentsholing. “A kilogram of Bhutanese chilies is cheaper by Nu 10 to 20,” a customer said.
Meanwhile, the local vegetable vendors are cashing in on a lucrative business as most customers purchase the fruits and vegetables from their stalls.
According to Tshewang Dema, 44, a local vegetable vendor, the vegetables she sells are getting sold in no time due to the rush of customers. She is glad as she doesn’t have to stay late in the stall selling the vegetables. “Local vegetables are drawing in a lot of customers and we receive a good price too,” she said.
Tshewang Dema said that she started cultivating vegetables in her farm since 2012, as an effort to contribute vegetable self-sufficiency during all seasons. She also said that her income has increased after taking up the large-scale vegetable production. “We now depend on vegetables to educate our children and even for the daily income.”
Another local vegetable vendor, Tashi Wangdi, said that the local farm produce are organic and have a better shelf life compared to the imported vegetables which have to be routed though hot and humid places. He said that a large variety of vegetables are now grown in the country year round and there is a ready market too.
“It is obvious that fewer customers will buy the imported vegetables during this time of the year,” he said. He also added that many farmers are cultivating vegetables with keeping a gap of about two weeks to maintain a continuous supply, a basic farming technique that they have learnt.
Therefore, Tashi said that the farm production is better when the methods are followed and helps to maintain a steady supply of vegetables in the market.
The price range of the vegetables varies at CFM during the market days from Thursday to Sunday, where the prices are highest on Thursdays and lowest on Sundays.
As of this week, the imported vegetables available at the CFM are chilies, tomatoes, onions, brinjals and bitter gourds. There are also 20 varieties of local vegetables including non-wood forest that are available in the market.