Availability of budget to decide CFM’s transformation

Yangyel Lhaden

After more than a year, the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) has started operating at full capacity from March 28. However, the agriculture ministry’s plan to transform CFM’s ground floor to an aggregate centre and the upper floor to a zone market has not been dropped.

CFM was identified as a high-risk area after the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country. The government decided to decongest it and later decided to let the market operate at one-third after all the vendors couldn’t be relocated to new markets in the zones.

Sanam Lyonpo (Agriculture Minister) Yeshey Penjor said that CFM would be transformed when the ministry gets resources. “Until the ministry cannot confirm the budget to transform CFM , it will be allowed to operate at full capacity.”

Lyonpo said that the ministry was trying to include CFM’s transformation in its economic revival plan and was also trying to mobilise resources from development partners.

Lyonpo said that with changing times it was important to do-away with the centralised market. “Centralised market is a prone area not only for Covid-19 virus but for any other contagious diseases due to overcrowding at the place. Traffic jam at CFM area is another problem”

One of the reasons for CFM’s reform is to switch it from a vendor-centric marketplace to an aggregate centre where it would be a hub for local produce, Lyonpo added.

Currently, there are about 50 vacant counters at CFM. Records with CFM management show that 112 vendors have left the CFM. There are 508 counters at CFM with 50 slots in the cereal section.

CFM’s Senior Manager Tshering Tenzin said that there were vendors at the zones wanting to come back to CFM while some vendors at CFM wanted to leave,  although  none had applied officially. “ Business as usual has not picked up at CFM.”

Tshering Tenzin said that the management will start receiving new applications and after screening, award the vacant counter to new vendors. He added that vendors who left CFM to sell from other zones would not be encouraged to apply.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjore said that only former CFM vendors who are not occupying slots at zone markets would be given an opportunity to sell from the CFM. “ We want to encourage more day-sellers in vacant slots.”

Former CFM vendor vending from one of the zone markets, Tshering Yangdon, said that there was no point returning to CFM when her counter was occupied by other vendors.

She said that a few of them respected the government’s decision and moved to zone markets as thromde officials said we could sell all produce starting from vegetables, fruits and even meat. “After moving to the zone, I am informed I cannot sell meat. I already bought a freezer for Nu 25,000.”

Meanwhile, Senior Manager  Tshering Tenzin said the CFM incurred losses after vendors left for zone markets and CFM operated at one-third capacity. “CFM used to do well financially before the pandemic which is why the government discontinued the subsidy for CFM from 2018.”

He said that during good times CFM’ revenue in a month was Nu 800,000, enough to cover the  management’s expenditure of  around Nu 700,000 a month. The revenue dropped to about Nu 400,000 after some vendors moved out.

CFM also pays a land lease Nu 2.4M to Thimphu thromde yearly.

Tshering Tenzin said that CFM was short of about Nu 300,000 every month during the pandemic. “We used money from our savings to meet the expenditure and so far, have not deducted staff’s salary as well.”