The association has been plagued in the main by logistic and management issues

 Diary: Unlike the other milk cooperatives in Trashigang, the Kanglung dairy cooperative has curdled and is struggling to survive.

For three months now, the cooperative has stopped collecting milk from its members, but to keep the cooperative afloat, members are paying Nu 45 a day for the three bottles of milk they were supposed to contribute to the cooperative.

Collecting milk from the members has become a challenge for the cooperative.  Without a collection vehicle, the problem is largely attributed to the 39 members scattered across five villages.

For instance, Ritshangdung is located about 6km away from the collection point, while Yonphula is almost 10km away.

Chairman of the cooperative, Langna Dorji, said they tried collecting milk by dividing members into groups and following a routine.

“Given the distance people had to travel, the idea failed,” he said. “We even asked members to drop milk at the sales counter, but it turned out even worse.”

Tenzin Dorji, a member, said that only a few members owned Jersey cows or crossbreeds.  Others owned local breeds for milk.

“This resulted in low yield and more often than not people had to pay cash to compensate for not being able to contribute three litres of milk everyday,” he said. “With time, members started losing interest and some opted to leave the cooperative.”

Since most members had availed personal loans from BDBL, they couldn’t apply for another loan to buy Jersey cows, and had to make do with the local breeds.

Poor management was another factor for the failure of the cooperative.  Until mid 2013, the cooperative didn’t even have proper files and records maintained.  It was also found out that some members were misusing the cooperative’s money, collected through a monthly contribution of Nu 150 a member.

“Nobody would maintain minutes of the numerous meetings that were held,” Tenzin Dorji said. “Members wouldn’t follow the outcomes of such meetings and no reviews were carried out.”

Moreover, competition from neighbouring cooperatives of Rongthong and Pam only soured their problem.

“By the time we finished collecting milk, most households would have already bought milk from the other cooperatives. They make home deliveries,” Langna Dorji said.

He added that they received equipment from the livestock office only in 2013 and, by then, the two neighbouring cooperatives had made their niche in the market.

However, selling milk is not much of an issue, another member and the salesman of the group, Dechen Wangdi, said.

“At times, we receive bulk orders from Sherubtse College, but we’re unable to meet the requirement. The group produces only about 55 litres of milk a day,” he said. “As long as the supply of milk improves, selling won’t be a problem.”

Members said the availability of loans would immensely help them.  At present, only about 10 members were able to avail loans from the bank.

“After the economic affairs minister said we could avail loans through Business Opportunity and Information Center, we tried to process, but we were informed that group loans weren’t accepted,” another member, Tsheten said.

Starting next month, the cooperative will start collecting milk again, but members are skeptical if things will turn around. “We might have to leave out the far flung places for collection,” the chairman said. “But we’ll keep trying for loans to buy Jersey cows and increase the yield.”

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang