Choki Wangmo | Dagana

After more than a month of onion marketing challenges, the farmers of Dagana thought that they found a solution with the support of the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC). For many farmers, though, it was not the kind of support they were looking forward to.

The vendors from Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) in Thimphu recently met with farmers in Dagana, through DAMC’s facilitation, to negotiate the price of onions. The vendors offered Nu 32 per kg. Farmers were unhappy and could not come to an agreement.

Farmers were then given a week to decide on the offer.

Bhim Bahadur Tamang from lower Tshendagang said that at Nu 32 per kg, he did not even get half the investment he made on the farm. “It is a total loss.”

Farmers, he said, expected Nu 40 per kg to recover the expenses. “Officials said that it was due to market forces but that logic doesn’t work.”

He has 2,000kg of onions stored in his curing barn. Onions are cured for at least two to three weeks.

With 47 households involved in onion cultivation, Tshendagang Gewog produced 45MT of onions. Only nine farmers in Tsendagang and four in Tashiding received subsidies for curing barns.

Many farmers without curing barns were compelled to sell the harvest at CFM’s rate.

Sha Bahadur Ghalley, a farmer, said the farmers deserved more.  “Because we grow onions without chemicals, it has a shorter shelf life. I am afraid I would run into losses.”

Karna Bahadur Bal, another farmer, cultivated onions on his 50-decimal land. He has already lost 10 percent of the harvest. He said that if vendors do not grade the onions, he would sell them at Nu 32.

Vendors prefer onions that are above 3.5cm.

In September last year, more than 200 farmers from the 12 gewogs in the dzongkhag took up onion cultivation. The agriculture ministry encouraged the farmers to cultivate onion and tomato to address the shortage of onion in the country.


What could happen?

Farmers are now planning to sell their harvest at Nu 50 at Dagapela vegetable market.

“We do not have storage facilities to preserve onions for winter,” said Bhim Bahadur Tamang.

The government, he said, should look into controlling imports to benefit local farmers.

CFM tshogpa, Dendup, said that although people worked hard, onions were not up to the standard.

On July 25, the vendors procured 37 bags of onions (2,000kg) from Dagana farmers.

“We have agreed to pay Nu 35 per kg if they bear the transportation cost and Nu 32 if vendors bring the produce,” Dendup said. “Farmers are demanding Nu 40 per kg”.

Last year, the Dagana agriculture sector identified more than 176-acre land to grow onion and tomato. As part of the economic contingency plan, Dagana received about Nu 11.7 million. Under the plan, farmers were provided seeds, subsidies, and technical assistance.

Earlier this month, DAMC officials said the agriculture ministry had plans to work on a compensation modality if the pandemic situation persists and farmers suffer loss.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk