Onion and Tomato not available in the market

Bhutan to go for import of onion soon to address massive shortages says Agriculture Minister

Onion and tomato is now like gold in the kitchen. Within the second week of lockdown there were already shortage of these vegetables. People were going around and searching for onions and tomatoes as if they are looking for some rare treasure but there was little or nothing to be found.

Onion and tomatoes have both become essential vegetables in Bhutanese cooking.

Suraj, 36, in Babesa said that onion and tomato is a must ingredient whenever he cooks to add a distinct flavor.

“Without onions, food is incomplete and colorless. I’ve had to change my entire cooking style. Since the second week of lockdown I have been going around in my zone to look for onions and tomatoes but there is no supply in the market,” he said.

Sonam Dema 30 said, “We cook up onions with everything. Even while making ezay we need onion and tomato for the flavor.” 

A vegetable vendor in Olakha vegetable market Dorji, 37 said that there’s no supply of onion and vegetables since the lockdown.

“There is no import at the moment and the stock I had finished during the course of lockdown and now there is no supply. People come looking for these two vegetables and they go away when they don’t find it,” he said.

Dema, another vendor in Babesa, said that since there is no supply of onion and tomatoe she is selling spring onions and small local tomatoes however, but some people don’t prefer and they walk away.

“We can’t make onions in factories, and local production is minimal. Our only option is to substitute onions with spring onions that has hit the market currently and small local tomatoes which is hitting the market.”

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said the onion shortage is an issue mainly in the Thromdes of Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Gelephu as people in other Dzongkhags are making do with the local varieties that grow there.

He said the import can happen via Samtse, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar if Phuentsholing is not ready due to its Red Zone status.

“We have to see wherever it is possible since Phuentsholing is under red zone and given the situation we will import soon,” he said.

He said Tomatoes will not be imported for now given that the tomato season is coming up and Dzongkhags have reported its production to the Ministry.

“We will try not to import tomatoes, however, if it is not sufficient we will have to import tomatoes as well,” he said.

To prevent occurrence of such unpleasant situation and to facilitate consumption of locally produced fruits and vegetables within the country, the government has imposed restriction on the import of commonly grown fruits and vegetables except for onion, tomato, bitter gourd, okra, apple, banana, pineapple, mango, orange and pomegranate in June, 2020.

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