Chhimi Dema  

Dzongkhags producing winter vegetables have started escort modality to bring produce to the capital.

While some farmers feel that the modality helps them, others are worried about their produce that could rot in the fields.

Kinley Yangzo, 48, a farmer from Wangdue, said that although some quantity of produce such as broccoli, spinach, coriander, and onions were delivered to Thimphu, there were still many in the field.

“Broccoli has started to flower in the fields without a market, and we use other leafy vegetables as animal feed,” she said.

Kinley Yangzo, under normal circumstances, takes produce to Thimphu.

“Usually with our sale of produce at this time of the year, we can cover expenses for my children’s education. This time I have doubts about earning enough,” Kinley Yangzo said.

Pema Khandu, 46, a farmer from Barp gewog in Wangdue, used to sell her produce in Khuruthang, Punakha.

“Despite the lockdown, the gewog agriculture office has helped to deliver the produce to Thimphu, and it has been helpful to us,” she said.

Gaylong, deputy chief agriculture officer of Punakha, said that surplus produce from the dzongkhag is sent to Thimphu.

Leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, coriander, and onions are brought to Thimphu in a day.

The dzongkhag agriculture has delivered 13,423 kilograms (kg) of vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, and leafy vegetables; about 360 kg of rice; and 3,300kg of mandarins as of yesterday.

Gaylong said that the delivery of the produce has been in place since the lockdown.

“The gewog agriculture extension officers collect produce from farmers according to a collection schedule for each gewog,” he said.

From the collection point in each gewog, the dzongkhag collects produce and brings it to Khuruthang. Then the aggregators take it to Thimphu with an escort.

Gaylong said that those involved in providing escort services and aggregators undergo Covid-19 antigen tests daily and RT-PCR within three or four days.

Leki, a farmer from Dagana, said that he has been taking his produce to Wangdue. “We apply for the e-movement pass to deliver the goods.”

A dzongkhag focal person helps to register and facilitates travel to other dzongkhags, he said.

In Tsirang, the escort services for delivery of the farm produce have halted briefly due to the 72-hour lockdown in the dzongkhag.

Tsirang dzongkhag’s agriculture officer, Dorji Gyeltshen, said that before the 72-hour lockdown was declared on January 26 in the dzongkhag, escort services were provided from Damphu to the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) in Thimphu.

“Before the farm produce is delivered to Thimphu, the vendors contact those at the CFM and make arrangements for transhipment,” he said.

All the vehicles after the transhipment return with the escort service on the same day.

The dzongkhag arranged escort services on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

“Considering the risk at the moment while the dzongkhag is under 72-hour lockdown, we have asked the farmers to stop harvesting the produce. After the lockdown is lifted, the escort modality will be in place,” Dorji Gyeltshen said.

The escort services started on January 22 and about 20 vehicles carrying vegetables and livestock products delivered goods to Thimphu.

An official from Sarpang dzongkhag said that since the lockdown, the dzongkhag facilitated delivery of produce once to Thimphu. However, produce from gewogs is currently being brought to Gelephu.

The dzongkhag aggregators link with Tsirang aggregators and take farm produce to Thimphu, the official said.

Each gewog has identified aggregators who collect produce from the gewog and supply it to Gelephu Thromde or Thimphu.

The Regional Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives Office in Gelephu is currently coordinating the collection of produce and supplying it to Gelephu.

A farmer in Sarpang said that the transportation of produce to a market is an issue. “Production of vegetables from the farmers is abundant but there is a lack of clear modality to connect us to the market in the current situation.”