… due to market situation

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited’s (FCBL) auction yard in Phuentsholing is struggling to export cabbage because the markets across the border are flooded with cabbage from Shillong and Darjeeling.

There were 1,300 bags of cabbage at the yard yesterday that have been waiting for negotiation since June 21.

FCBL purchased the cabbage from farmers of Chukha, Paro, Haa and Thimphu in a buy-back scheme that the organisation had recently initiated.

The importers from across the border are offering rates that range from Nu 5.5 to Nu 10 per kg. FCBL paid farmers Nu 19 per kg.

The yard’s complex manager, Ugyen Penjor, said the trend could last until mid-July.

“We are still negotiating with Indian importers and trying to sell.”

He said that the regulated market in Silliguri, where more than 60 percent of Bhutanese cabbage is usually traded, could open by July first week. It is one of the largest regulated markets in West Bengal, which is closed at present due to the pandemic.

Starting June 18, FCBL opened an aggregate centre at Damchu, Chukha for the buy-back scheme. Farmers from Chukha, Paro, Haa and Thimphu bring their produce to the centre from where FCBL takes to the auction yard.

The farmers are paid upfront at the centre and the corporation also bears the transportation cost from the centre to the auction yard.

Meanwhile, farmers have already started to complain about the buy-back rates FCBL has fixed under the buy-back scheme. There are 24 agricultural products in the list.

FCBL officials said that most farmers had issues with the rates for potato, which has been fixed at Nu 18 per kg.

Ugyen Penjor said that farmers should understand the difference between retail price and the rate for the bulk production.

“We have also waived the 3.5 percent service charges that farmers paid at the yard,” he said.

FCBL’s director for the department of corporate services, Lhakpa Sherpa, said farmers must understand the current situation. Citing the example of the cabbage bought at Nu 19 per kg and traded at as low as Nu 5.5 per kg, he said that FCBL was bearing the loss.

“If the potato prices increase, FCBL might be able to cover the loss,” he said

FCBL’s only intention was to benefit the farmers, Lhakpa Sherpa said. Farmers can, however, explore the local market for higher rates.

The Phuentsholing auction yard traded 2,497MT metric tonnes (MT) of cabbage and about 27,113MT of potatoes last year.