Now the crisis is in the kitchen


Bhutanese kitchens are getting harder by the day to run.

From imported rice to imported vegetables to imported meat, the buying of groceries till it is laid out on the table ready to consume is one mad cycle.

Especially with the country facing an economic crisis which could have been prevented had the authorities been wiser and the people thriftier.

The rupee saga has come a long way since the start of last month when the Royal Monetary Authority stopped replenishing the banks’ rupee reserves.

On 12 April, the Prime Minister in a televised address to the nation asked the citizens to cut down on their spending. What is more, he said that from 5 May, import of vegetables from India would be stopped.

This is a wake-up call to all shoppers and sellers.

A study conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Marketing Co-operatives (DAMC) last year revealed that a select group of wholesalers were taking home profits as high as 216% on the import of vegetables from Falakatta, India.

While it is true that farmers in Bhutan hardly produce vegetables beyond what they themselves consume, it is also a fact that they have reasons for doing so.

They are hardly guaranteed a market when cheap vegetables come all the way from India and steal away their customers.

It is also a fact that in the absence of price regulation, there is no check and balance on market prices, and when the price of  vegetables become exorbitantly high, customers naturally opt for the cheaper Indian goods.

Bhutan spends Nu 286 mn on vegetable imports annually.

Could not this money have been used in better ways?

Like improving the livelihood and agricultural practices of the farmers in remote Bhutan?

Agreed, the government has done a lot.

But a lot more could have been done if the money which went into importing vegetables had been pumped into facilitating measures to boost local production.

Now, the Prime Minister has finally made a call but it comes at a time when Bhutanese customers no longer fancy organic, home-grown products but have the prices, availability and variety in mind.

Import of vegetables has also fuelled the rupee crisis.

And it is high time that cost cutting is done in this area.

But questions that arise are will our farmers be able to produce the required amount of vegetables at such short notice?

Producing vegetables that can meet the needs of a growing population within a short span of time is nothing short of a miracle.

Meanwhile, the authorities may have to really rack their brains to come up with an interim measure.

Vegetables cannot be hoarded unlike other goods and we just have less than a fortnight before the import of vegetables will be stopped.

Whatever said and done, a stitch in time saves nine.

This move may initially give birth to some teething problems but this must be done anyhow so we will have to gear up for some odds.

But let us hope that we have also learnt our lessons.

The blame-game is on but right now, what we need is not accusations from each side but a spirit of mutual understanding and co-operation to tide over this crisis.

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  1. Great news that we will be now consuming the vegetables produced by our own farmers there by contributing to income and our national economy. we can also start pig farms or restart pig rearing in villages so that we can also cut down on expenses made on pork. Others like poultry farms should be improved to reduce our dependency on India thereby sustaining ourselves in the long run.

  2. Thank you for covering this story in the editorial. You are doing a great service to our democracy and free speech by covering stories that common men live with. It reminds me of what the Honorable PM said during the SAARC journalist conference in 2010. Here I quote:

    “It’s important for media to understand what the average person thinks and feels, their daily concerns about housing, roads and parking, litter, safety on the streets. You must engage our massive rural community and analyse how we can best serve the community and society’s many needs…In our national vision, the role of the Bhutanese media – and the information society at large – is to nurture a shared national consciousness.”

    Best Regards

  3. We need to save as much as possible in every possible ways.
    Certainly saving in terms of avoiding the import of vegetables in one good area. At the same time what that really needs to be in place is a strong prices control regulation.As we Bhutanese have a habit of making quick buck. The farmers might take advantage of Monopoly. If a kg of potato cost us 15 rupees, I see no reason why our local product should cost more than rs.20 per kg. 
    If our govt fails to make a strong regulation on cost controlling It will be the people of low income group who’ll suffer most. Meaning over 50 % of our people.
    As we are in crisis situation, we really need help from every corner and best way to over come a crisis is by working hand in hand with all the stake holders.

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