Choki Wangmo | Tsirang
Pigs are fattening by the day on the farms and without a common ground between vendors and farmers rearing pigs, business for local pork producers in Southern Bhutan is at a standstill today.
However, according to the farmers and Members of the Parliament (MPs), cold storage could address this problem in the long run as they wait for immediate interventions.
In the recent question-and-answer session at the National Council (NC), Dagana NC member Surjaman Thapa asked Sanam Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor if the government could support poultry and piggery farmers with cold storage facilities to reduce damage and address marketing challenges.
He said that due to a lack of market, livestock farmers were discouraged to do business which will have adverse impact in the long run.
Lyonpo said that under the initiative of Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL), construction of cold stores at Wangdue and Sarpang is complete while the store in Khaling would be completed in a few months. “The ministry in collaboration with the economic affairs ministry and FCBL plans to build five cold stores by next year.”
Sarpang NC member Anand Rai asked if the ministry could help market eggs and meat items through Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation Limited or implement a buy-back scheme.
The minister said that in the buy-back scheme, the government has to buy produce at the lowest price, incurring losses. “The government initiated an incentive-based scheme production where producers can either sell their produce to the government when the products are in good condition or sell it themselves.”
Lyonpo said that while he was aware of such challenges among farmers, the ministry couldn’t intervene as it is the result of market forces. He said that the government cannot stop imports as such abrupt measures would create a market vacuum.
“It is a problem in few dzongkhags for a short period of time. We have to consider the welfare of both producers and consumers,” he said.
The ministry, meanwhile, had sought support from the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry to resolve agri-marketing challenges, the Lyonpo said.
Farmers in Tsirang and Dagana, who had been waiting for months to sell their local pork said that the government need to step in and resolve the price issue between vendors and farmers.
Their business before the holy month had been slow due to the low prices offered for local pork.
A farm owner in Tsirangtoed, San Man Subba, said that if there was a fixed farm gate price for farmers and a fixed market price for vendors, there won’t be price irregularities in local produce.
He said that currently, vendors refuse to buy local pork saying that the prices were high compared to imported ones.
Ramesh Tholong from Tsangkha, Dagana said that vendors were refusing to pay not more than Nu 200 for a kg of pork. “We will be in loss considering the feed prices.”
Sidaman Gurung from Tashiding in Dagana said that while he has to repay loans, he couldn’t sell his piglets and local pork. “Farmers are not asking the government to totally ban imported pork but priority should be given to local producers.”
He said that the authorities concerned should carry out consultation with the producers and vendors to resolve the price issue and market challenges. “We can fix a reasonable price.”
“Cold stores might help us tackle such challenges in the future,” he added.
Farmers are forming cooperatives and groups with the hope to address the issue.
Meanwhile, at the question-and-answer session at the National Assembly yesterday, Lyonpo said that the marketing challenges farmers faced were not a result of increased import but the price of local produce.