… firms worry about lifting restrictions on imports could hurt their business

Nima  | Gelephu

The Covid-19 pandemic that resulted in restrictions on the movement of vehicles from the border gate has come as a blessing for local brick manufacturers in Sarpang.

Brick manufacturers who earlier complained and appealed to the government for not having market are making the most of the current restrictions. 

 Yangjung Sonam Bricks and Steel Fabrication (YSBSF), in Gelephu made record sales in March this year after the border closed.  The company sold over 87,000 bricks in March, over 41,000 in April, and more than 71,000 in May. During the same period last year, close to 87,000 bricks were sold.

The owner of the company, Sonam Dorji said earlier his bricks were taken only to government constructions within the dzongkhag.

“When the border was sealed, the demand for bricks increased. The private constructions placed their demands,” he said.

He said the unit is unable to meet the demand for local bricks.

“The bricks that were in the stock were sold out in the first month. In the following months the unit faced the shortage of labour,” he said.

Like most small and cottage industries in Gelephu and Sarpang, day labourers from across the border were the main workforce at Yangjung manufacturing unit.

Sonam Dorji said that local two bricks manufacturers closed shop for lack of demand in the past.

“Now, there is pressure to produce more from all sectors,” he said.

Gelephu saw a decrease in brick manufacturing units over the past three years.

The brick-making business struggled against different types of cheap imported bricks in the country.

Today, there are three brick manufacturing units in Gelephu.

With the government transitioning to the new normal, the number of trucks conveying imported bricks is on the rise in Gelephu.

The local brick manufacturers are worried about losing business again.

Druk hollow blocks sold its entire stock of 15,000 bricks as soon as the border closed. But the demand for bricks has dropped since the gates were opened for imported bricks about one month ago.

Three major government constructions are ongoing in Gelephu. Local bricks manufacturers said it was disappointing to see the project not using local bricks.

“How can we convince private individuals to use our products in such situations. Government projects should start using local bricks and encourage others,” said Sonam Dorji.

YSBSF employs over 20 staff and also produces concrete door frame.

Local brick manufacturers said bricks made in the country were not known for being a good quality despite sharing equally good qualities and sold at lower prices than the imported bricks. This is because several construction workers are from India. They don’t prefer using our local bricks, according to the bricks makers.

The local brick manufacturers said there should also be proper monitoring to improve the quality of local products so that inferior quality and uncertified bricks won’t enter the market. This trend has spoiled the name of local bricks.