Meat shops in the capital city are crowded with just three days left for them to be closed for the next one month. Vendors are even running short of meat to meet the increased demand as people rush to buy stocks for the next one month.
Meat shops that this paper talked to all said that they had much bigger sales than in normal times and were thus ordering for more animal carcasses from India.
Sales of meat will be banned from 18th of May till 16th of June, coinciding with fourth mouth of Bhutanese calendar this year. This is in accordance with the section 16.5 of the of the Livestock Act of Bhutan 2001, which states “the Ministry shall prohibit slaughter of animals and sale of meat on the auspicious days of 8th, 15th and 30th; on the 4th day of the 6th month; on the descending day of Lord Buddha and during the whole of 1st and 4th months of the Bhutanese calendar.”
The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority issued a notification which reads that all meat shops and procession plants should remain closed during the period. The owner and the manager of the shops are advised to clear out the meat stock before the prohibition starts.
The owner of BB Meat Shop at main town, Maya Subba, told The Bhutanese that she sold more than 200 kg of beef, 200 kg of pork, 100 kg of chicken and 40 kg of fish during last five days. “I ordered for more meat as there are an increasing number of customers coming to my shop this time.”
A.K Meat Shop at Sunday Market has sold 1,200 kg of meat and fish in five days, though the owner, Ashal Mongar, said he didn’t put up stock as meat would get spoiled very quickly as it is warm now. “More customers are rushing for the meat in last two days and we are experiencing impressive sales”, he added.
Another meat shop owner at Sunday market told that he had ordered additional meat, expecting for more sales as the ban period is just three days away.
Meat vendors said that their sale of meat went up by double and even more especially in the last two or three days when each person would take away a leg or hand of beef to last the month.
As customers rushed to buy meat the existing stocks sell out so fast that even the virtual skin and bones meat or poor quality meat is being bought by customers.
As soon meat trucks empty their meat into the meat shops people can be seen taking away whole legs and hands of beef and large pieces of pork or bags of chicken meat. Apart from ordinary buyers there is also a major demand from hotels and restaurants who have to stock for the next one month especially since it is the peak tourist season.
Meat vendors also explained that more meat was sold since a lot of Bhutanese people held their rituals in such months where meat dishes are a must.
One customer at the marker, who prefers not be named, said that he noticed that before every ban the meat demand goes up drastically and people still end up eating meat.
Another customer told that although she didn’t mind people eating meat during the ban but she had hygiene concerns over storing meat for long periods especially in summer.
The former government in 2009 tried to do away with the two month long meat bans but had to change its mind after criticism from its own MPs and ordinary citizens. However, consumption patterns and meat import figures show that more animals are actually killed before such months as Bhutanese go into a meat hording mode and often hoarding more than required amounts of meat.
There are many who buy special fridges to store such meat while there are others who turn the meat into dry meat for preservation and consumption.
Most meat vendors in the capital purchase local chicken from Tsirang, Samtse, Pasakha in Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Dagana. Local chicken costs Nu.220 per kg in Thimphu and the price for frozen imported chicken is Nu. 200, pork is Nu.200 per kg and sikam Nu.400. Beef costs Nu. 190 with bone and Nu. 240 without bone. The price of fish is Nu.170 per kg. Price and quality, however, are not concerns as all meat stocks get emptied out.