Kuenlek Tshomo Tshering | Intern

About 40 entrepreneurs present at Coronation Park in Thimphu displayed a variety of unique local products at their stalls. The park was filled with the sweet melodies of music and the warm smiles of entrepreneurs from across the districts, creating a vibrant atmosphere.

These entrepreneurs are participating in the Bhutan Agri-Food Trade Investment Forum (BATIF), which began on May 15. The forum aims to help entrepreneurs and businesses seek investment opportunities from a wide audience, including foreign investors, multilateral development banks, and the private sector.

The event is being organised jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, along with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the European Union (EU), the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and several government agencies.

Additionally, the event featured the launch of new products and the presence of emerging entrepreneurs.

Dechen Pelden, a mother of three from Trongsa, seized the opportunity to debut her brand, Black Mountain Green Tea, at the inauguration of BATIF, coinciding with her birthday. Previously, she worked as an employee at Samdrupcholing Tea.

At her stall, Dechen Pelden showcased three varieties of tea leaves for sale: Green tea, Black tea, and butter tea. Impressively, she has already sold approximately 90 packets of green tea.

Dechen Pelden expressed her reasons for leaving the women-led green tea group in her village, stating that she has acquired expertise over the years. She is now determined to establish her own business with the goal of supporting the disadvantaged communities in lower Samdrupcholing who have not yet benefited from the women’s group.

The six new products launched and displayed at the event include mushroom tea, organic green and black tea, vermicompost, aiga processed cheese block, agarwood chips and oil, coffee plants sapling, and cherries collection.

Flora Bhutan Vermicompost (FBV) introduced vermicompost derived from a blend of cow dung and earthworms.

Bidur Rai, the manager of FBV, joined the company in 2021 after departing from his position at the agriculture ministry. He made this transition upon discovering the profitability of the vermicompost business.

Bidur and his boss are the sole producers of vermicompost, as there is limited interest in engaging in this hands-on process.

Bidur highlighted that vermicompost could potentially address the growing demand for organic fertilizers within the country. Thus far this year, the company has successfully produced approximately 15 metric tonnes of vermicompost.

At the event, another entrepreneur is SP Bajgai, a former chemistry teacher who ventured into soap making. He has elevated the craft by creating oil-based soaps infused with three distinct flavors of essential oils: pear, lemon, and rose.

SP Bajgai’s soap is particularly recommended for individuals invested in skincare and who prefer chemical-free products. It utilizes castor oil, which contributes to its higher cost compared to conventional soaps. One standout feature of his soap is its biodegradability, aligning with eco-friendly practices.

Despite his innovative product, SP Bajgai faces challenges, notably the high expense of importing essential oils from India, priced at Nu 8500 per liter. This cost hurdle impedes his ability to penetrate the local market effectively. Attending the event, like other entrepreneurs, he hopes to attract more customers over the weekend to bolster his business.

However, not all entrepreneurs are facing the same struggles. Mircula beer, showcased at Serka Dairy’s stall, stands out as a popular and top-selling product, enjoying success amidst the event.

The event will end on Sunday.