FCBL: The Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) should supplement and support the private sector instead of competing with them, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) officials said.

BCCI’s secretary general Phub Tshering said there is a lot of scope for FCBL and the private sector to work collectively. “FCBL can act as a link between consumers and the market,” he said citing the example of the local rice that the FCBL launched. “The private sector can use FCBL as a medium to connect to consumers, which would help save cost for the private sector besides preventing outflow of convertible currency.”

The business community objected to FCBL’s opening of retail shops in some eastern districts. They reasoned that FCBL encroached into their businesses and there was no way they can compete with FCBL. Even the agriculture ministry’s initiative to open a farm shop in Rangjung town, Trashigang was not appreciated by the business community. The farm shop is operated by FCBL. About 36 shopkeepers in Rangjung have put up a petition to the dzongkhag administration, as the farm shop would be selling essential commodities like rice, oil, sugar, and soap among others.

Phub Tshering also said that FCBL has an edge over the private sector. “When private sector especially the micro businesses lose competitiveness over FCBL, that’s when there are objections,” he said. “FCBL shouldn’t do small things that the private sector can do.”

BCCI said they would write to FCBL on how they can work together in many areas. BCCI is ready to facilitate and create a platform for FCBL and the private sector. “It should be a win-win situation for both,” Phub Tshering said.

Citing the example of farm shops, Phub Tshering said it was a noble initiative by the government where FCBL can act as a link between farmers and the market. In doing so, Phub Tshering said people should be made aware of it. “Consumers can have easy access to commodities using FCBL as a medium,” he said. “As of now, the roles are not clearly defined which is why there is mistrust between FCBL and the private sector.”

As the representative of the private sector, BCCI officials said they are not against FCBL doing business but said that there is resentment among the business community when FCBL deals in both wholesale and retail business.

BCCI officials said rather than retail business, if FCBL opens a wholesale depot in all the gewogs, it would immensely benefit other retailers. “Even if they are into retail business, it should be at par with other retail businesses,” Phub Tshering said. “The intend shouldn’t be to compete with other retailers.”

FCBL officials couldn’t be contacted for comments.

Kinga Dema