Neten Dorji

Khaling – Until a few years ago, farmers in eastern Bhutan with surplus vegetables and fruits had no option but to discard them incurring significant losses. There were no cold storage facilities.
However, with the launch of such a facility in Khaling, farmers are hopeful their losses will not be as significant. The Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) opened a cold storage facility with a 300-metric tonne capacity in Khaling, Trashigang for agricultural and livestock products.
The facility is expected to help farmers from four eastern dzongkhags in finding better markets for export and supply to the local market.
Farmers have reported substantial post-harvest losses when there is an abundance of agricultural produce in the market during peak seasons.
Tashi, a villager from Khaling, said, “We could store perishable vegetables during the lean season instead of exporting the products, which would have to be imported again later. We could store and supply when the price is better.”

The facility was launched with a simple traditional ceremony

He said that local produce becomes less preferred by customers when cheaper imported alternatives flood the domestic markets.
Another farmer, Tshering Norbu, said, “With this cold storage facility, we can engage in commercial-scale vegetable and potato farming. Moreover, we will now be able to sell potatoes at a reasonable cost.”
He said that with a potato grading warehouse, there would be no need to transport potatoes to Samdrupjongkhar for sale.
Many farmers have previously resorted to feeding a large quantity of vegetables, such as cabbage and other perishable items, to cattle due to their inability to sell them at profitable prices.
The construction of a cold storage facility in the village has brought happiness to many farmers, as they believe it will prevent wastage.
A farmer named Chimi Wangmo stated, “If there was a cold store, it could have been stored. We think that now our products will be saved from wastage.”
Local farmers expressed the belief that cold storage would benefit those who struggled to secure fair prices due to its absence.
Some farmers are concerned about their ability to afford the facility, given the monthly cost of Nu 8,000 to use the cold storage.
Khaling Gup, Sonam Dorji, said that the cold storage facility would support increased vegetable production, allowing farmers to fetch better prices.
“Farmers have been facing problems due to the lack of fair prices for agricultural products produced in the village. We are hopeful that this problem will be resolved after the construction of the potato grading and warehouse is completed,” he said.
He also mentioned that the gewog administration is encouraging people to cultivate vegetables on a commercial scale.
FCB CEO Dorji Tashi said that the facility would enhance access to markets and help formulate marketing strategies for agricultural and livestock produce, both domestically and internationally.
“The cold storage facility is built as per the contingency plan to support hardworking farmers, businessmen, and entrepreneurs,” said the CEO. “Once the separate potato grading and storage are complete, we will start an online auction where farmers from the eastern region can auction their potatoes from Khaling.”
The cost of using the cold storage will range from a minimum of Nu 4,000 to Nu 8,000 per month.
The construction of the cold storage facility commenced in February 2021, with a total cost of Nu 57 million, and was completed by mid-2023. However, it faced delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and hindrances during site development.
The cold storage, comprising 12 chambers, was funded by the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Government of India.
In addition, two more cold storage facilities are currently under construction in Pasakha and Zhemgang.