Three state-of-the-art cold storage facilities in Wangduephodrang, Trashigang and Sarpang, equipped with a capacity of 300 metric tonnes each, is stained by underutilization, as farmers seem hesitant to engage fully with it.
Chimme Tshewang, an official from the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB), revealed that out of the 14 chambers available in these cold storage units, only a fraction are currently in use. In Wangdue, 4 cold storages are being utilized by vegetable vendors and meat shop owners, whereas in Sarpang, 8 cold storages are being utilized by traders.
Thedtsho Gewog Gup, Chador, in Wangduephodrang highlighted that traders, instead of farmers, are utilizing many of the facilities to store meat, dairy products, and vegetables, like potatoes.
Upon questioning local leaders about the limited farmer engagement, different reasons surfaced. Gup Chador said, “Many farmers prefer to transport their produce directly from their villages to the market, given the accessibility of roads. Additionally, some farmers find it economically challenging to afford the fees associated with utilizing the cold storage units.
Samtenling Gewog Gup, Kumar Tamang, from Sarpang said, “The farmers lack substantial quantities of produce to warrant storage and face financial constraints. Traders, too, are reconsidering their involvement due to the associated costs.”
In contrast, there remains optimism among the farmers. Khaling Gewog Gup, Sonam Dorji, said that the anticipation within the community regarding the forthcoming operation of the cold storage facilities. He emphasized that these units, once fully functional, would enable farmers to regulate produce prices and sell their goods at opportune moments, thereby maximizing profits.
A FCB official confirmed that the initial goals of the cold storage facilities, including securing food for unforeseen circumstances, supporting school and hospital feeding programs, and facilitating agricultural exports, have been successfully met.
The local authorities and stakeholders are optimistic that with time, more farmers will recognize the benefits of these facilities, leading to increased utilization and, improved livelihoods.