Lhakpa Quendren  | Tsirang

The farmers in Tsirang are grappling with unreasonable prices for their products, while consumers are burdened by high prices caused by the interference of middlemen. 

To address this issue and establish fair pricing for agricultural and livestock products, the farmers are calling for the introduction of a minimum selling price (MSP) in the country.

According to many farmers, the MSP should be implemented for specific agricultural products such as vegetables, milk, grains, fruits, and mushrooms, among others. 

Bholanath Acharya, a 32-year-old farmer from Tsholingkhar, emphasised the government’s role in regulating the prices of agricultural and livestock products. He expressed his disappointment, saying, “We have repeatedly raised this issue with our elected representatives, but it seems unlikely that they will offer any assistance.”

Despite investing significant labor and financial resources into farming, farmers like Bholanath Acharya lament the meager prices they receive for their products, leading to challenging circumstances. Bholanath provided an example, stating, “During the harvest season, cauliflower’s wholesale price drops to Nu 10 per kilogram, but middlemen sell it for Nu 150 per kilogram in Thimphu. The demand for vegetables in Thimphu remains consistent throughout the year.”

Bholanath argued that implementing the MSP initiative would safeguard the interests of farmers in general, which would undoubtedly improve their income. Additionally, this initiative could help address the issue of “goongtongs” (empty households) by promoting engagement in various farming activities, leading to increased self-reliance.

A farmer in Gosarling highlighted the substantial discrepancy created by middlemen between wholesale and retail vegetable prices. He said, “They purchase our produce at low prices and sell it at exorbitant rates, reaping enormous profits.”

The farmer further explained: “When selling mushrooms, we never receive more than Nu 200 per kilogram from middlemen. However, they sell it for no less than Nu 350 per kilogram in Thimphu, earning a profit of Nu 150 per kilogram.”

While those involved in commercial farming can market their goods and secure fair prices, numerous small-scale farmers rely on middlemen to sell their products. Farmers who sell their produce to vegetable middlemen insist on market interventions to protect them from excessive losses during bumper production years.

“We are not advocating for direct connections between farmers and consumers. However, market regulations would benefit farmers by curbing high prices,” said a farmer from Rangthangling, emphasising the need for market support.

The implementation of a minimum selling price (MSP) for agricultural and livestock products is seen as a crucial step towards ensuring fair prices for farmers and protecting their interests. 

By addressing the involvement of middlemen and introducing market regulations, the government can alleviate the challenges faced by farmers and enhance the agricultural sector’s overall sustainability.