Aggregating vegetables in Zhemgang not profitable

Nima | Gelephu

Farmers in Gholing, Zhemgang were struggling to fetch good prices for vegetables until the dzongkhag administration came in to buy, to be supplied to Thimphu during the second nationwide lockdown.

Khengrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC) collected vegetables from the farmers.

Gholing chiwog tshogpa, Ugyen Penjor, said that more farmers were into commercial vegetable farming in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But, many are disappointed with the price and return from the work in the early days,” Ugyen Penjor said. “We tried to supply to the schools nearby but it’s done by the cooperative.”

He added that providing equal opportunity to the farmers and the cooperative would help farmers understand the market better. “It would also motivate farmers. Farmers would also know the rates.”

This, he said, helped the farmers fetch good rates. The farmers sold vegetables to aggregators at around Nu 10 lower than the fixed rate.

Tashi Tshering, a farmer, said the farmers followed the price fixed by the government. “The dzongkhag’s initiative to collect the vegetables helped market our products. We did not know how the price was decided earlier.”

Chairperson of KNC, Thinley Wangdi, said collecting vegetables was not a profitable business in Zhemgang. The aggregator takes days to collect, grade, and sort the vegetables before reaching retailers in Thimphu.

The cooperative has collected over eight tonnes of vegetables to date.

“We pay farmers lower than the fixed farm gate price to meet transportation charges. The price of vegetables differs from place to place. It is based on the distance we travel for collection,” Thinley Wangdi said.

He said that the farmers were not aware of the challenges. “There are around 20 percent weight loss of vegetables and damages along the way. We don’t even meet our transportation expenses sometimes.”

He added that it would be difficult for the farmers to market their produce in the absence of the cooperative’s service.

“Farmers of Zhemgang struggled to reach their produce to market in the past. Not many grew vegetables on a large scale then. We are committed to helping them market their products,” said Thinley Wangdi.

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