Choki Wangmo

National Assembly voted against the National Council’s recommendation to establish a cold chain to link farms to the market outlet during the budget deliberations yesterday.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that when the domestic revenue was scarce, the government should not rush without proper research and studies on the establishment of the cold storage and cold chain.

He said that there were differences between cold storage and cold chain, which many people mistake for the same.

The government’s worry, however, was about the people who would be willing to use these services, because in the current scenario even the products transported in bolero pickups faced a market shortage.

Cold chain, according to Lyonchhen is a process from production till the products are delivered to the consumers.

He said that if the government started the project, it would be difficult to sustain. “Therefore, the government was looking into private individuals to provide the services, but there were no takers and those who took up were unsuccessful.”

The government has allocated Nu 80 million to establish cold storage facilities. As a trial, the government would first pilot projects which if successful would then be replicated with refrigerated vans.

The vans, Lyonchhen should be provided to all dzongkhags which was impossible due to budget constraints. But if it doesn’t work, it would be a loss for the country, he said.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said that he appreciated the National Council’s recommendation but if reviewed properly, the existing cold stores provided by the government were defunct and unused.

He said that those services run by the private individuals were taken care and well monitored. “Instead of the government taking over the project, we are in talk with the private individuals to establish the services but during current times, it is unnecessary.”

The government, he said, was focused on the zonal distribution of the products.

Khamed-Lunana member Yeshey Dem said that the establishment of cold storages and refrigerated vans would only increase the prices of vegetables.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that the infrastructures could be used for storing fruits and dairy products, supporting the people in rural areas. He said there should be clarity about who will install these facilities.

“The government should support farmers because the problem is not in production but in the transportation of products.”

Some members, however, said that the government could collaborate with farmers’ groups and cooperatives for marketing. Instead of establishing huge infrastructure, the government could install small cold storages that would come handy for people.

Drametse Ngatsang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that the government could optimise the current fund to refurbish the existing cold storage and not build new ones. “We need to pilot projects rather than concluding that there won’t be takers.”

The National Assembly re-deliberated on the amendments and seven general recommendations received from the National Council on the Supplementary Budget Appropriation Bill for the FY 2019-20 and Budget Appropriation Bill for the FY 2020-21.

The third session of the Third Parliament will hold its closing ceremony today.