Yangyel Lhaden

Eighty  seven of the around 500 vendors at the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) have decided to sell from vegetable markets in the zones once their construction is complete.

This is according to the list of interested vendors compiled till February 8 by the CFM management board that was submitted to Thimphu thromde on February 10.

The CFM management board has requested thromde officials to prioritise CFM vendors during the allotment of shop space at the zones.

CFM’s manager, Neten, said it was difficult to convince vendors to operate from zones, as they didn’t want to leave the area. “However, we use a social media group chat to advocate.”

He explained that CFM did not operate as it was supposed to, as vendors outnumbered farmers.

The letter also stated that CFM’s ground floor would be converted into an aggregation centre for local farm produce from the 20 dzongkhags.

The floor would operate as zone shops where only local produce could be sold.  Imported vegetables would be distributed directly to other zones, the letter stated.  However, Neten was worried about the systemic and logistic supply of vegetables when CFM is converted into an aggregation centre. “Who’ll take charge? CFM management never procured vegetables from source as wholesalers are experienced and have good relationship with distributors.”

Drawing lessons from how the agriculture ministry struggled with the procurement and distribution of vegetables during the first lockdown and the losses it incurred, Neten said that, during the second lockdown, the government did not incur losses when CFM vendors were directly involved.

Meanwhile, some CFM vendors have occupied the minor vegetable markets in zones.  All eight minor markets will be handed over to vendors from March, and the five medium ones by April.  There are 96 vegetable and 16 meat counters in the zones.

A vegetable vendor said that, had the thromde constructed the vegetable markets within two months as it was supposed to, all the vendors would have moved out “However, even if they complete the construction, the vegetable market wouldn’t be able to accommodate all of us.”

She asked whether the government had other plans to relocate them.

CFM officials said relevant stakeholders should inform and include them in decisions regarding CFM.

“We come to know the status of CFM only through media. This is the first time we’ve received an official correspondence,” an official said.