Yangyel Lhaden

With the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) board submitting a proposal to decongest the area, vendors are likely to move out of it from July 1 this year.

The agriculture ministry is planning to convert the CFM’s ground floor into an aggregation centre for local farm produce from the 20 dzongkhags. The upper floor would be a zone market.

Agriculture Minister, Yeshey Penjor, said if the government approved the proposal before or after July 1, CFM vendors had to move out. “Risk of local transmission at CFM is high. The market is also dominated by vendors and not farmers.”

CFM is identified as a high-risk area during the pandemic. With increasing urbanisation, population density at the CFM increases the burden on the city’s infrastructure.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor informed vendors of CFM to prepare to move out from July 1 in CFM group chat.

Vendors questioned how they could move out without a formal notice and complained there was not enough space for them in vegetable markets in the zones.

The minister claimed he only notified them and did not mean they should leave by July 1. “From July 1, new fiscal year starts and if the proposal is approved, vendors will have to move out anytime we get budget during the fiscal year.”

He said a formal notice would be given to the vendors if the decision is formalised.

There are 96 vegetable and 16 meat counters in the zones. CFM currently accommodates about 500 stalls and has been functioning at one-third its capacity since October 14, 2020.

A vendor at CFM questioned if zone markets would be ready if they had to move out. “My livelihood will be at stake if I have to move out without a space.”

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said CFM was treated as an ancestral asset and people did not want to move out easily. “Vendors think there aren’t enough spaces, but if CFM is de-congested spaces would be created for them.”

CFM was closed on September 11, 2020, through a notice from the Prime Minister’s Office, Facebook page. CFM vendors, however, were reluctant to sell from zones, forcing CFM to operate with one third of its capacity from October last year.

Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry is collecting applications from vendors, who want to move out to markets in the zones.

Lyonpo said they have requested thromde to give preference for CFM vendors in vegetable markets in the zones.

Many vendors at CFM said they did not want to leave.