MoEA has notified the agency to focus on wholesale business instead

Trade: The Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) has been asked to surrender all its retails licenses by July this year.

The recent notification from the economic affairs ministry comes at a time when FCB has set up a retail shop in Pemagatshel but was refused a trade license to operate earlier this year. Instead the ministry has asked FCB to concentrate only on the wholesale business. The notification doesn’t state any reasons for such decision.

Earlier most businessmen in Pemagatshel had also objected to FCB opening a retail shop in the dzongkhag. FCB owns retail shops in almost all districts where it also have depots and wholesale outlets.

While discussions are still ongoing, FCB officials said the retail shop in Pemagatshel has been suspended. FCB officials said about Nu 80,000 have been spent on renovating the retail shop. A truckload of essential grocery and cosmetic items brought to Pemagathel for the retail shop was sent back to Samdrupjongkhar.

FCB officials maintained that retail shops were as important as the wholesale business.

Regional manager Pema Wangchuk said that the FCB management had already written to the economic affairs ministry that if FCB only continued with the wholesale business, it would contradict FCB’s mandate of procuring and distribution of food grains and other essential commodities to the people in line with their charter.

The royal charter mandates FCB to sell goods at a reasonable price and ensure price stabilisation of food grains and other essential commodities through effective procurement and establishment of nationwide distribution network.

“The wholesale business just benefits shops and not the people,” he said. For FCB, almost 40 percent of the sales in the eastern districts are from retail business while in Samdrupjongkhar it’s about 80 percent.

While FCB is yet to hear from the economic affairs ministry, works are on full swing to renovate a farm shop in Samdrupcholing dungkhag. FCB officials are now worried if they would be issued a trade license.

FCB plans to establish a farm shop in all the dzongkhags, which officials said will provide “buy back guarantee” products like farm tools, spare parts, seedlings, feeds and essential commodities.

The government has also pledged to establish farm shops in all the 205 gewogs.

“We’ve not yet applied for a farm shop license,” regional manager Pema Wangchuk said. “The notification just states retail business so we remain hopeful.”

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said that a farm shop was different from a retail shop. “There seems to some miscommunication so we have also requested the economic affair ministry officials for a meeting,” lyonpo said. “We expect to sort out all differences during the meeting.”

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar