Choki Wangmo | Dagana

With the establishment of the first spice production unit in Dagana, local farmers in the dzongkhag are pinning their hopes on solving the turmeric marketing challenges.

Farmers have started selling their produce to Daga Adding Masala Unit (DAMU), a local processing unit in Dagapela that manufactures turmeric powder for both domestic and international markets.

DAMU’s proprietor, Narath Koirala, 30, said that he started the processing unit in 2018 to reduce spice imports and to gradually substitute imports. “We operated on a small scale in 2018 and with experience, we had been working on expanding the unit.”

In the future, he expects to optimise spice production with increased youth employment. “To reduce risks from market volatility and shortage of resources, I plan to grow turmeric on five acres of land.”

His firm is yet to be certified as organic.

He said that in the past, they faced challenges in marketing products due to a lack of proper packaging.

He has sought support from the Department of Agricultural and Marketing Cooperatives to explore the export market.

He said that in recent years, the farmers across Dagana were facing difficulties in selling their turmeric.

To date, he has bought 25 metric tonnes (MT) of turmeric from farmers at Nu 37 a kg.

Last year, Dagana agriculture sector, with support from the National Organic Flagship Programme encouraged the farmers to grow organic ginger and turmeric as focused crops in Tsendagang and Tsangkha gewogs.

The initiative was undertaken to encourage farmers to establish a productive organic farming system and cultivate in their fallow lands.

From 2019 to 2020, the sector focused on growing turmeric in nine-and-half-acre land in the two gewogs to produce about 28MT.

However, much remains to be done to reduce the wastage of resources at the unit. For example, there is a need for storage facility. At Narath Koirala’s firm, turmeric, which has a shelf life of a year, is found stacked outside. Young shoots were sprouting even.

According to the trade statistics 2020, although cardamom remains one of the top five items exported by Bhutan to India and Bangladesh, without commercial production of spices, Bhutan is heavily dependent on imports.

Edited by Tshering Palden