Lyonchhen Dasho Dr. Lotay Tshering

PM says Bhutanese need to process Doma after India forbids imports

Member of Parliament (MP) Dupthob during the question and answer session in National Assembly questioned the Prime Minister on the measures to resolve the problem faced by the farmers selling Doma (betel nut) in the southern districts.

The MP said that doma growers in the southern districts have made a good income by selling doma even though they sell it at a cheaper rate compared to import ones.

However, the farmers are now having difficulty in selling their produce in the local market despite low price and sufficient supply in the country, he said, adding that they are also not able to export unlike in the past given various reasons from the neighboring country.

“We are importing doma from India even when we have sufficient supply. The doma growers have shared that people prefer imported doma over local ones as it comes in white color which they feel is clean and fresh,” he said.

Though the original color of doma is brown, the imported one comes as white because chemicals are added to it. Thereby, the local produce is hugely impacted by the import.

In addition, he said that there is possible of getting cancerous diseases due to the added chemical. In line to this, he has asked Lyonchhen on measures to address the issue and when the farmers can resume their export.

Answering the MP, Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering said, “Farmers in all the southern districts grow doma but they are not professional in doing business. We have talked about how to go about doma business, but unfortunately the pandemic hit us.”

Doma growers are not professional in terms of doing business because until today they have been making direct deals with the Indian dealers whereby during the season the Indian dealers themselves comes in person, pick and take the produce, he said.

Bhutanese farmers are paid at once (lump sum) and in some cases farmers ask for advance from the Indian dealers. Now that due to the pandemic, they are not able to carry out the business as no Bhutanese can climb on doma tree and collect doma. They were fully dependant on Indians in the past.

Lyonchhen said that they have asked the farmers to collect the produce and to bring it at one place so that they can help with the market but no one had the courage to collect doma as they had to climb.

In the past, Lyonchhen said, “Farmers have sold new doma, popularly known as Kang-tsha at Nu 25 per Kg to the Indian dealer and in few months time the same dealer ferment and exports the same doma as Muza (old doma) to Bhutan at Nu 250 to 300 per Kg.”

India is one country in the world that has good source of doma production and other doma related items. They grow themselves and have a good market. Thereby, as per their business rules and regulations they are not allowed to import doma or items related to it, he said.

Moreover, he said that what Bhutanese produce is not in their list. Even if the government requests them to import Bhutanese doma through diplomatic relation, the law again doesn’t allow that.

Every year more than 15 metric tons of doma is being produced within the country, he said, adding that if they are to promote doma business, exporting is not the right option. “We have to take the initiative to ferment Kangtsha doma to Muza. Farmers have to be taught on how to climb, how to pluck and on how to ferment,” he said.

If that can be done than the produce 15 matric tons of doma in a year can only suffice for Bhutanese consumers and there will not be need of exporting the produce. 

They have started doma business at Dhamdum Industrial Park and they have around 150, 000 pon’s of doma. Once the doma are fermented they will send it to Paro where they will peel it and supply.

Lyonchhen added, “If these things are initiated then there is no need to look for exporting doma. For now they are examining the presence of disulphide in doma and the impact it has in creating health issues.”

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