Phub Dem 

As a class 10 drop out struggling to work in the farm, Dawa Pem was happy when she was told she could run the highland sales counter in Haa.

Her parents agreed to run the sales counter with two other families in Haa for three years.

Inaugurated on November 26 last year, the counter was expected to sell yak products.

However, the business hasn’t picked up.

Dawa Pem blames the pandemic.

Due to the second lockdown, the counter remained open only for less than a month.

Although the counter was allowed to remain open during the lockdown, Dawa Pem said there were no customers. “We earned a profit of about Nu 3,000 before the lockdown.”

She added that as  there was no demand for yak products, they sell local dairy products. “I am hoping business will pick up in summer if there is no lockdown.”

Another member who runs the counter, Sonam Choden, said they are struggling to market the products, as they are new. “Availability of products like chugo in other shops hampered our business.”

She said cooperative members already sold their products to shopkeepers, as the sales counter opened towards the end of the year. “We sell at a lower price than the shopkeepers.”

For now, the members are selling products of their yaks.

“If we have to buy and sell, we will run into loss considering the unstable market due to the pandemic,” Sonam Choden said.

Livestock production officer of Haa, Kipchu, said the counters would sell local livestock products, as it was not sustainable due to limited demand. “Except for a few kilogrammes of butter, local demand is limited.”

He said the dzongkhag was planning to support the members in repackaging, branding, and labelling the products for a broader market. “The members will be trained to make yoghurt. We provided yoghurt incubator to them.”

While there are demands for chugo from Thimphu, he said members could not supply due to the lockdown. “We are sending excess local butter and cheese to Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation.”

Kipchu said that the members agreed to supply the products to the counter. “Our focus is to bring a competitive market by selling the produce at a wholesale rate.”

He said that the sales counter would serve as a one-stop-shop for highland products. “We have a huge plan and this is just the beginning.”