Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar
The price of some of the essential commodities like rice and potato, among others have increased in Samdrupjongkhar town that has seen fewer customers each day in the past few weeks.
A kilogramme (kg) of Bhutanese potato normally costs between Nu 25 to Nu 30 and a kg of dry Indian red chili costs Nu 160 to Nu 180.
Today, a kg of potato costs Nu 50 and one has to spend as high as Nu 300 for a kg of imported dry chili. A bag of rice (22kg) which used to cost about Nu 570, today it is Nu 600 to Nu 650.
Residents said authorities should check and monitor the prices of commodities. Some said shopkeepers have now increased the price of the rice despite the government’s announcement not to do so.
Hotel Phuntshok Yangkhor’s owner, Karma Tshering said he used to buy about four bags of rice and vegetables every month for his hotel. “But shopkeepers and vendors now charge double the price for some commodities,” he said.
He said the prices which were displayed today were the new prices. “These are not the ones the shopkeepers and vendors used to charge because they have increased the prices and submitted them to the trade office after they heard the government’s announcement,” he said.
“It is important for the concerned monitoring agencies including the trade office among others to study the impacts on both the vendors and customers before they accept and approve the prices,” Karma Tshering said.
Another resident, Dema said she paid Nu 50 for a kg of potato and Nu 1,000 for Bhutanese dry red chili last week.
“The shopkeeper charged me Nu 700 for a bag of 25kg rice which used to pay Nu 570 before. It is a burden and additional pressure during such crucial times for middle-income families like mine.”
Customers said there are also differences in price of vegetables. While some vendors maintain at the same price others increased. For instance, peas and beans cost Nu 80 and Nu 120 per kg but a few vendors charge Nu 100 per kg of peas and Nu 140 for beans.
Vegetable vendors said there should not be a price difference because they buy vegetables from the same suppliers but few vendors still charge more. “We were also questioned by the concerned officials. It would hamper our business someday,” a vegetable vendor said.
A vegetable vendor, Zangmo said there are differences in prices because every vendor has different suppliers with different prices. She said that the price from the suppliers has also increased as they now have to pay Nu 700 to Nu 750 a kg of Bhutanese red chili and Nu 40 per kg potato.
Wholesalers said the price for the rice has increased because the transporters charge double transportation charges given the risk and illegal tax collection along the Indian highways, adding that the prices are also increased from the suppliers.
“We are paying Nu 3,000 per truckload to the Bhutanese labours for unloading,” the proprietor of Selden Grocery shop said.
Regional trade officials said although the office did not receive any complaints from the customers, they are strictly monitoring and compiling the prices from the shopkeepers and vendors as there are few price escalations.
Officials said they have sensitised the shopkeepers and vendors to maintain documents like invoice among others. “We will strictly monitor and impose fines if we find them charging unreasonable prices,” a trade official said.