Lack of resources hampering production

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

A CGI-sheet shed, an oil expellant, and few bottles of mustard oil on a tiny shelf at the corner of the room.

Sonam Dorji Subba, 24, runs Dagana’s only mustard oil production firm at the post-harvest sub-centre in Dagapela.

Domestic circumstances forced Sonam from Gozhi to look for income sources while attending to his father who was ill. He had been back home with his father after completing high school.

“The former group which ran the mustard oil business had abandoned the venture. I saw the machines lying idle and approached the dzongkhag agriculture sector,” Subba said,who has been operating the firm for the past month.

He invested Nu 50,000 in the business.

He works as an accountant for the farmers’ sales outlet located below the sub-centre and sells his products there.

Subba said that there was a high demand for the mustard oil due to the clean and organic process of production, but was not able to meet the local demand. “I want to expand the business and make the products available across the country. Mustard oil has medicinal values too.”

Mustard growers have dwindled and he has to go look for resources in the villages. He currently procures mustard from Lhamoidzingkha and Drugeygang in Dagana.

“If there is a subsidy for mustard growers, farmers could be encouraged to grow the crop,” he said.

Currently, he can get only 500kg of mustard seeds in a month, which is enough to produce just about 175 litres of oil.

The firm uses two types of mustard plants— Sarshong and black. The black species is mostly used for the oil production.

Mustard leaves can be harvested after three weeks of planting and the seeds are dried for about five weeks. The seeds are then heated and pressed, after which it is filtered and extracted.

The residues are used as feeds and as nutrients in the field.

A 900ml of mustard oil costs Nu 250. The cost is at par with the imported mustard oil.

With plans in the pipeline with the gewog administration to supply mustard seeds to villages beginning next year, this could help address Subba’s challenges. Access to access to loans could help him expand the business, he added.

There are only a few mustard oil processing firms in the country. Most edible oil firms import ready-made oil and package the product at Pasakha.

Cooking oil is a heavily imported commodity in Bhutan along with rice, meat and dairy products. According to Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited, the country imported more than Nu 250M worth of edible oil in 2020.