First two farm shops open in eastern Bhutan

But shopkeepers in Rangjung have filed a petition objecting the move

FCB:To facilitate better market for farmers, the Regional Agriculture and Marketing Corporative (RAMCO) established the first two farm shops in the eastern region at Rangjung in Trashigang and Toedtso gewog in Trashiyangtse yesterday.

The semi business venture will guarantee the farmers a market for their local produce, sell farm inputs like seeds and fertilisers and make available spare parts for farm machineries as well as retail basic food and essential items.

Officiating regional marketing coordinator with RAMCO, Sangay Jamtsho said the farm shop would function as a service centre.

“One of our objectives is to provide easier market access to farmers while also catering to famers with all farming inputs to enhance production,” he said. “The farm shop will also have a buy back system whereby farmers can sell their surplus vegetables.”

The food and other essential items would be demand oriented. For instance, the gewog administration should make a list of the required commodities and only those items would be stocked at the farm shop.

The Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) would operate the farm shops while RAMCO, as a facilitator would monitor the activities.

FCB’s regional manager Pema Wangchuk said the corporation would initially be operating the farm shops and once the business picks up, it would be handed over to farmers.

In the buy-back system, he said that FCB would buy the surplus vegetable produce at a pre-negotiated price. But, farmers should come in groups with produces in bulk. Vegetables would then be transported to Samdrupjongkhar and distributed across the nation.

“We already have a 100 MT cold storage being constructed in Samdrupjongkhar,” Pema Wangchuk said.

Dzongkhag agriculture (DAO) DK Bhandari said farmers don’t have easy access to market and have to wait for days to sell their produce in Samdrupjongkhar.

“Although production has been increasing, there is a lack of market,” he said. “ Vegetable groups do supply to schools and institutions, but they are unable to sell much.”

The office is also encouraging farmers to go for low volume high value produces like mushroom and fruits.

However, the business community of Rangjung is not happy with the coming of the farm shop. They have put up a petition to the dzongkhag administration objecting the move.

“There already exists a FCB outlet in Rangjung and the coming of another one would further eat into our pockets,” a shopkeeper said.

But FCB regional manager said that the shopkeepers are mistaking the farm shop for a retail shop.

“We have two types of prices. One is the wholesale rate and the other the retail rate. We would be selling the essential items at retail price,” he said.

Though RAMCO has plans to establish farm shops in all the gewogs, budget constraint is keeping the idea at bay for now. RAMCO plans to establish 70 farm shops in the six eastern dzongkhag. A total of 34 sites have already been identified.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang

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