Chimi Demal | Tsirang

Padam Lal, 42, is a vegetable farmer in Pemathang, Tsirang. These days he can almost always be seen watering his vegetable garden. Demand for local vegetables has increased sharply because of import difficulties due to Covid-19 scare.

He is in Thimphu almost every weekend with loads of vegetables. Last week, he supplied 400kg of cauliflower and 500kg of cabbage to Thimphu. Coming Sunday he is planning to send more.

Even as India has declared 21-day lockdown, vegetables and other essentials keep coming to Bhutan. However, factors such as shortage of labour have resulted in reduced supply. This has motivated Padam Lal to grow more vegetables this time around.

It used to take him a whole day to sell vegetables before. Not anymore. He is now struggling to meet the demand. “This encourages me to work even harder,” he said.

Padam Lal is the lone provider of the family. He has been selling vegetables for the last 20 years. The entire two-acre land is filled with fresh vegetables. These days, he makes more than Nu 20,000 from fresh vegetables.

“We have been receiving various supports like fencing and water pipes from the government,” he said.

According to Gosarling Gup Ram Bahadur Karki, villagers were keen to produce more vegetables now. About 70 percent of farmers grow on commercial scale and are sold in the nearby dzongkhags.

In Kilkhorthang gewog, people have returned home to start vegetable farming. Chandra Prasad Khandal from Dekiling used to work in a hardware store in Paro. He is now back in the village to begin vegetable farming.

“Farming has become very lucrative,” he said. “But in my place there is shortage of water. I would have taken up large-scale vegetable farming if I had enough water.”

Kilkhorthang Gup Beda Moni Chamlagai said: “With more people coming back to villages and taking up farming these days, we are expecting more production.”

Gewog officials who go around the chiwogs providing health advice on Covid-19 are also encouraging farmers to grow vegetables.

Kilkhorthang has more than 500 households; 90 percent of people are involved in vegetable farming. About 60 percent of farmers grow on a commercial scale.

According to gewogs’ agriculture extension officials, the dzongkhag agriculture sector with the help of agriculture department is supplying seeds based on the requirements.

“For summer vegetables, we have been receiving seeds and would supply to the gewogs,” an official said.