FCB will add more supply vehicles to increase frequency of deliveries

Business: It is 7am and 43-year old Leki Wangmo along with her friends, from Martshala gewog, walk for about an hour to reach the nearest road point. They wait for vehicles to pass by trying to hitch a lift to Samdrupcholing (Bangtar) dungkhag.

They are on the way to Samdrupcholing to sell their vegetables. Whatever they earn from the vegetables they spend on essentials to take back to their village.

But Leki Wangmo wears an anxious look on her face. It is almost 8am and there are no vehicles passing by.

This is because, Leki Wangmo said, if they are late then by the time they reach Sanam tshongkhang, a farm shop, it will be out of stock. This would mean they would have to purchase their essentials from other shops where they are charged more than the maximum retail price.

“After the Sanam tshongkhang was established, it has greatly benefited us in many ways because we get goods at a reasonable rate,” she said. “It’s helpful but the shop runs out of stocks most of the time.”

Like Leki, for the past few months, the residents of four gewogs in the dungkhag have been enjoying their new Sanam tshongkhang service, but many expressed they have to worry daily and start from home as early as possible to reach the shop on time to get the goods they need.

Villagers said the shop should increase their stocks to meet the people’s demand as it helps them to get goods at a reasonable price.

Another villager, Tendrel, said sometimes even when they arrive early, the shop is already out of stock and sometimes it took days before it is restocked.

“Then what is the use of having such service, which in the beginning had promised to have goods readily available, but remains closed most of the times,” he said. “We agree it has helped us, but what is the use if they limit the stocks and buy from the other shops.”

Many said they have never hurried or worried like they do these days to reach the dungkhag to buy essential items. They suggested that the concerned ministry should look into the issue.

Supported by the agriculture ministry, the shop is operated by Food Corporation of Bhutan.

Meanwhile, the corporation’s regional manager Pema Wangchuk agreed that it is a problem. He attributed it to a lack of storage space and logistics. He said there are only three vehicles to supply goods, which is not enough to meet all the demand. Even if supply is increased, he said there is no place to store the goods at the farm shops.

He added that the problem was not limited to only Samdrupcholing but to other farm shops in eastern Bhutan.

There are 24 farm shops in the eastern region as of last month. Four more are in the pipeline.

“But we’re hoping that the facilities would improve once we have two extra vehicles, which would be placed in Mongar and Khangma,” he said. “Even if we don’t have storage facilities, we would be able to increase the frequency of supply.”

About two to eight metric tonnes of goods are supplied to the farm shops everyday and each farm shop depending on the location earns between Nu 1,000 – 3,000 daily. They supply goods as per the gewog administration’s required list.

However, the regional manager said that although many villagers have responded positively, they are yet to study the market because the demand fluctuates in each of farm shops.

“While some farm shops make good sales it is hard to even meet overhead costs in some of the shops,” he added.

The corporation is planning to start a buy-back system where it would buy surplus vegetables produced at a pre-negotiated price from the farmers, which would be transported to Samdrupjongkhar and distributed across the nation. However, negotiations on prices are still ongoing.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar