With India revealing the SOP for ‘Lockdown 5’ or ‘Unlock 1’ from 1 June 2020, the Minister of Economic Affairs, Lok Nath Sharma, is hopeful that there will be furthermore access to other items that are currently limited in the market due to operational production at sources or due to the prior route restrictions.
Lyonpo said, “Previously, we could not import goods in varieties, and there were shortages of labor. With this Unlock 1 happening in India, we can hope to bring in more varieties like garments or construction materials to name a few.”
The ministry has already eased access to some goods like supari, which were difficult to get in the initial phase, he added.
Lyonpo stated that non-essential items have been coming in more smoothly since a week ago as compared to the earlier phases of the lockdown in India. However, he added that he does not necessarily want to label or differentiate between what are called essential and non-essentials, as there are a variety of consumer items that people use frequently and that it is often not too easy to distinguish. Lyonpo said if more variety of goods could be available then it might help small shops, groceries and other sector that have not been able to get the goods before.
In a week long survey carried out by The Bhutanese reporters, it was found that the market has now been restored of quite a lot of goods which were not available before. But specific varieties of goods, especially the people’s regular brands as stated by the shopkeepers were stocked up in limited numbers to none in most shops.
Consumer items like Nestle brand coffee, Maggi noodles, a variety of imported chips to other items, like sunscreen lotions, cosmetic item, baking powder to even frozen food and sausages are being sold rapidly, which some of the shopkeepers said could be due meat stocking up before the month-long meat closure, and the fact that more people are staying home and cooking following COVID-19 precaution.
Mobile phone store owners said that although the phone stock has been low for quite a while, they are now assured of supply by the mass local distributors, like Tashi Commercial Corporation and 8/11 store.
There are other shops that rely quite heavily on third country import, and are facing the challenge of keeping a good variety of new stocks available and are still running on old stocks.
The shopkeepers comprising of garment dealers, utensil shop and shops that specialize in selling items brought in from China, Nepal, Thailand and other countries, said that up until now, they have not had urgent requirements. But in case of garment dealers, they said that their shops run on new fashion as well as the season, and as it is getting warmer they need to change along with the season.
Owner of Focus Garment Shop, Sonam Choden, said, “For most of the shoppers like us who import from China, Bangkok or Nepal for example, we have to call and order in huge lump-sum amounts as the containers at the depot are 40 feet in size, and to order such a quantity it might require a lot of money which only a handful of importers like us could bear.” She added such a trade is possible only if people have contacts and have reliable dealers abroad.
Lyonpo Lok Nath said there is financial support given to the people through surplus loan in the form of soft working capital loans for buying raw materials and for other purposes to sustain during these hard times.
“Other than that, the government is also looking into avenues to further help the market by expanding range of goods towards all the trading sectors,” he said and further added, “Container sizes and SOPs are different for each country and these are external factors, once other countries slowly lift up restrictions like some of them are doing at the moment, I am sure we will be able to facilitate trade and movement of goods, but besides all that these kind of support are already in place from our side wherever we could do.”