Nima | Tsirang

Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) is building a cold storage facility in Samtenling, Sarpang with a capacity to store more than 300 metric tonnes of agriculture and livestock products.

The storage facility is expected to help farmers find a better market for export and also to supply in the local market.

Without a cold storage facility, there were huge post-harvest losses while exporting and finding the market within the country, especially when the market is flooded with agricultural produce during the peak seasons.

FCB’s Gelephu regional director, Ugyen Choedup said that the facility would improve access to markets and help strategise the marketing of the agriculture and livestock produce both within the country and outside.

“Gelephu has become an important transit point for export after the pandemic prolonged lockdown in Phuentsholing. Almost all export consignments were transited via Gelephu,” he said.

He added that the facility would link domestic and international markets. “We could store during the lean season instead of exporting the products that have to be imported again later. We could store and supply slowly. It would also reduce damage,” said Ugyen Choedup.

He added that the local produce is less preferred when the cheaper imported products flooded the domestic market.

The construction of the cold storage facility started in February worth Nu 38.16 million is expected to complete in the next six months.

The marketing officer with Regional Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (RAMCO), Dawa Dakpa said that it was challenging to export agricultural produce without a storage facility during the pandemic.

“There was no proper place to store the produce. Export consignments were stranded for two to three days. There was a huge post-harvest loss because of high humidity,” he said.

He added that the export of agricultural produce would be better once the cold storage facility is ready.

“We could also maintain a sufficient stock of vegetables at least for the school feeding programme during the lean season,” the official said.

The construction of cold storage facilities comes at a time when the production of vegetables and livestock in the dzongkhag is expected to increase with more farmers venturing on commercial farming.

Sarpang received the highest share of the agriculture economic contingency plan budget of Nu 21 million to enhance vegetable production and to supply vegetables to northern dzongkhags in winter.

More than 18 youth have started commercial livestock farming this year under big-ticket initiatives that was launched to employ unemployed youth and those who lost their jobs during the pandemic. The government has invested over Nu 70 million in various livestock farming in Sarpang.

Sarpang dzongkhag agriculture officials said that farmers could store the vegetables when they struggled to find the market and sell it when the market is good. “Farmers in Sarpang struggle to store excess production of cereals. We are expecting increased production this year.”

Edited by Tshering Palden