Thinley Namgay  

A youth group from Sakteng opened a highland dairy products shop in Thimphu in collaboration with National Highland Research Development Programme yesterday.

Located at Sangay Sales building near the vegetable market in Olakha, the shop is run by five men including three university graduates and two tourist drivers.

They bought dairy products from their locality since April after the Covid-19 pandemic shut the borders and the trade with Arunachal Pradesh.

They have 3,300kg of zoetey and 2,100kg of butter and the price ranges from Nu 195 to Nu 600.

Zoetey is sold in plastic and glass containers. Customers can buy two types of butter: one for consumption and the other for butter lamp. There is no fresh cheese.

So far they spent more than Nu 1.4 million including the cost of products, transportation charges and the monthly rent of Nu 32,000.

One of the members, Dorji Wangdi, said that group aspires to distribute the products in all the dzongkhags. “We also wish to export to other countries especially targeting the Bhutanese who loves these products.”

Currently, the group has a marketing van to supply products to homes within Thimphu. They market their products through a Facebook page.

Dorji Wangdi also said that as a pilot project they have lots of challenges. He said that the group has no transportation vehicle to bring the products to Thimphu.

“We hire other vehicles paying Nu 30,000 for a bolero pickup truck and Nu 40,000 for a DCM truck. We have applied for a loan to buy a bigger vehicle.”

The other major problem is the lack of cold storage facility. “Of the 990kg zoetey brought in the first trip, 360kg were damaged. We’re hoping that the ministry will help us.”

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said the ministry is focusing on the quality food sufficiency, and such an initiative would encourage other youth.

The agriculture ministry helped the group with business ideas, vacuum packaging machine and powder machine.

Another group member Pema Khandu said that yak farming is declining due to the emerging socio-economic developments.

“The trend has become a question of concern if unchecked. We are hoping that this initiative would inspire the youth of Merak and Sakteng to take up a nomadic livelihood.”