Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

Farmers of Goemkha-Mendrelgang chiwog in Punakha have resorted to making seep (beaten maize) out of surplus maize in hopes of fetching income as the lockdown eases and businesses resume.

In August, just when maize and cucumber season reached its peak, farmers lost their market following the announcement of the nationwide lockdown on August 11.

According to a farmer, Tshering Norbu from Goenmkha village, roasted maize was sold abundantly to commuters along the Punakha-Thimphu highway. “Tourists and travellers visiting Punakha were the main customers.”

A roasted corn ear is sold at Nu 50. Every year, farmers in Punakha make a minimum of Nu 50,000 selling roasted maize along the highway.

For farmers like Pema Thinley, selling maize earns him more than Nu 200,000 every year. This year, he barely made Nu 20,000.

Pema Thinley said that he grew around four acres of maize. “I sell ears of corn to vendors along the highway at a cheaper price. An ear of corn sold along the highway is Nu 50 and I would sell them in bulk for Nu 20.”

Today, Pema Thinley is drying his matured corn. He plans to make kharang.

While many in Punakha have resorted to making seep and kharang from the maize, they continue to worry about the lack of market. A kilogram of seep sells for at least Nu 300. “Because seeps can be stored, we hope to have more demands during the Blessed Rainy Day,” said Tshering Norbu.

According to Goenmkha-Mendrelgang Tshogpa, Chimi, some of the farmers could sell seeps in Thimphu and make some income. “We talked with the famers and advised them to make seeps and kharang instead of having the maize damaged.”

Pema Thinley has also begun plantation of winter crops replacing maize. He has planted beans, radish, cauliflower and cabbage in his fields.

However, there was no alternative for the cucumber, a majority of which has to be disposed of today.

According to Toebisa gup, Namgyel Tshering, the gewog donated cucumbers and maize to schools, monastic institutions in the dzongkhag and to the frontline workers.

Today, in Goenmkha-Mendrelgang chiwog farmers are making a living with the income they made prior to the lockdown.