Covid-19 impacts natural resources market

Chhimi Dema

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the natural resources market mainly for timber and boulders as demand remains low.

The Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) officials said after selling 671,918.92 cubic feet (cft) of timber including spillover from last year, NRDCL still has 507,248.84cft in its stock as of the first quarter this year.

General manager with the forest resources division, Deo Kumar Biswa said, “Those customers who put requisitions for timber hoping that they can manage their labour and capital are also deferring their orders.”

NRDCL’s chief executive officer (CEO), Sonam Wangchuk said that to upscale the production, resources would be diverted to other production. He said that if there is a low demand for raw timber, it would be used to make panelling, flooring and window shutters, which would be used by people at some point.

Officials said that the demand for boulders in the domestic market is also minimal and the requirement is only for stone chips (gravels) for construction of roads and playgrounds.

The surplus boulders are exported to generate revenue for the country. However, the CEO said that with the lockdown in India and closure of border gates, the export of boulders has stopped leading to huge stockpiling of stones in Gelephu.

To sell the surplus stones, NRDCL is studying the requirements in the local market including government projects.

CEO of NRDCL, however, said that demand of sand from Tshokhana extraction site in Wangdue was high.

“The demand for sand now is similar to 2019. This is mainly because sand is highly regulated as there is a limitation at the source.”

The sand extracted from Tshokhana caters to the customers from Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Haa, Trongsa, Bumthang, Wangdue, Tsirang and Gasa.

As of May this year, 249,711.56m3 (cubic metre) of sand was extracted and 276,117.37m3 sold in the market.

To achieve its mandate of equitable distribution and increase the accessibility of quality natural resources, NRDCL has allocated various sand extraction sites in the country.

Sonam Wangchuk said that the high transportation cost to ferry sand from these far-flung extraction sites discourages customers. He said that the company made efforts to bring sand from Gelephu to the Tshokhana site in order to make sand available.

However, customers did not buy the Gelephu sand, as the sand from Wangdue was much cheaper. “We’re discussing with the natural resource pricing committee to come up with one price for all commodities,” he added.

The transportation cost from Wangdue extraction site to Semtokha in Thimphu is Nu 6,979, which takes into account the distance covered in kilometres and cost of per cubic meter of sand (Nu 13.63).

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