Meat shops in Thimphu are running low on meat stock ever since the ban of import of meat by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 coming into Bhutan.
The steady supply of 300 kilograms (kgs) of local beef once in a week has stopped now. There is also a shortage of pork and chicken.
Most shops are closed by afternoon, even with the high consumer demand, as there is nothing much left to sell. The meat vendors are finding it hard to earn enough money to pay their staff and pay the shop space rent which is usually quite high.
The limited local meat supply comes Tsirang, Gelephu and Dagana on a rotation basis. But some vendors travel to the meat distribution area incurring additional travel costs to get the meat. Some of them come back empty handed as all the meat is sold from the source in no time.
The owners are worried about how they will be able pay the shop rent during the Saga Dawa month, which starts from 22 May. However, some owners have waived off 20 percent of the rent.
Owner of Kaka Meat Shop, Koma Devi, said that they get beef supply once in a week which is not sufficient to meet their monthly expenses. They sold pork only once since a month ago and they manage to get chicken to sell once in 15 days.
She said, “We have to wait for our turns. We are not able to meet our monthly expenses. We are worried. We try our best travelling but we are helpless as the meat from the source itself is less.”
In addition, she said that the rates from the source are too high whereby they have to charge accordingly. She said the customers complain to relevant agencies about the high charges, however, the official after reviewing the involved expenses and price from the sources, give them the clearance to keep their rates.
“We have just increased Nu 50 and Nu 100 respectively. We have no options left. So we have to do everything possible for our livelihood,” she added.
Owner of Dragon Meat Shop, Dhan Maya Subba, shared that since lockdown in India they have been facing numerous challenges. Despite sending their staff in various places spending so much money to find meat supply, there is not enough meat.
She said, “We are feeling guilty because we are not able to serve our customers. Today, when they demand 50 kgs of beef, we could only give them 5 kgs. To that extent we are short. I sometime come early in the morning and request my friends to give meat for my customers.”
She said that she has managed to pay the shop rent and staff from her savings. But she worries that she will run short of money with the dismal earning these days. It would not be even sufficient to pay 50 percent of rent, she said.
Owner of Makcha meat shop said, “We used to receive meat on a daily basis before the lockdown but now the situation has worsened. We are lucky if we get beef once in a week. We get meat if we make an effort to travel to far flung places. There is a demand for pork but we did not get pork supply even once.”
He said that the meat vendors are dependent on imported meat that they are not able to replace in such times. It is mandatory to have other alternative always, he added.
“If the import ban continues then we worry that we may not get a single kg of meat. Our sources won’t be able to meet the demand for long. The only option will be to stop eating meat. It’s one month that I did not get pork. There is not much demand for chicken though,” he said.
Owner of Wangyel Meat Shop said that the demand is very high, whereby if they open the shop at 7 am, 200 to 300 kgs of meat will be sold by 9 am. They are not able to meet the customers’ demands.
Beef with bone is sold at Nu 300 per kg, boneless beef is Nu 400 per kg, and an entire chicken is sold at Nu 600 per bird.