Thinley Namgay

The members of National Assembly yesterday decided that further discussions is needed to fine-tune plans and policies regarding the farm shops in the country.

Policy changes and recommendations will be presented in the next parliament session.

The proposal to fine-tune plans and policies regarding the farm shops came after Zhemgang Tshogdu, which states: “The farm shops under Food Corporation of Bhutan  (FCB) has generally benefitted people in Zhemgang. However, as opposed to the agreement, the farm shops have not been providing the people with agricultural aids like farm machinery and seeds, and had not followed the buy-back policy.”

It also states that the system differs from gewog to gewog and the tshogdu has urged the government to implement a uniform system of farm shops across the country.

Bardo–Trong’s MP, Gyembo Tshering, said that within five years, governments established 173 farm shops with an expenditure of Nu 158.117 million.  “However, as per the 2019 report of Royal Audit Authority, there was no fixed price and no book of accounts maintained by the farm shops.”

Further to that, he said that there was price difference in the village and market in towns due to lack of proper guiding policy. “For example, a kilogram of potato was bought with Nu 16 from village and sold at Nu 30 in towns. A kg of ginger cost Nu 14 in village, it cost Nu 142 in towns.”

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that the objectives of the farm shops were very clear, but there was problem regarding implementation.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that the farms shops benefitted the nine remote gewogs. “In the other 164 farm shops, it was followed like a private business by selling imported items. It has become like a competitor to the local business people. So far, this trend has incurred a financial loss of Nu 39.53 million to the FCB.”

Currently, the government collects products from the farm shops to supply to other dzongkhags, schools and hospitals through FCB.

“If the products are of less quantity, it is not worthy for the farm shops to buy it,” Lyonpo added.

However, Khamaed-Lunana MP, Yeshey Dem, said that it would be better if the farm shops could buy from local people and supply it in the towns. “The vegetables vendors in the town areas do not have to go to other places to buy vegetables.”

The MPs raised the concerns about the growing pressure facing the private business people due to selling of mixed products in the farm houses, shortages of farm products in the existing farm houses, lack of technician and farm machineries, mistrust between the supplier and the vendors.

The lack of quality seeds, cold storage house, and interaction between the people are other concerns.

MPs suggested that it’s acceptable to sell other products in farm houses in the place where there are no private business ventures.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that government had discussion with the relevant agencies to improve the existing system. “We are also working to let the people sell only the farm products in the farm shops.”

Athang-Thedtsho MP Kinley Wangchuk said the FCB must bring changes in the business framework in the country. “FCB should focus on exporting our products to other countries.”

Gangzur-Minjey MP Kinga Penjore said that the FCB should concentrate on the place where the private businesses have not been able to nobble.