Farmers have to buy refrigerated vans to transport meat 

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Livestock farmers from Tading, Samtse, are unable to supply meat in Phuentsholing.

This is because the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) has asked meat suppliers to have a meat delivery van with refrigerating facility to keep the meat fresh.

Farmers said BAFRA’s requirement is a hassle given the short distance between Tading and Phuentsholing. Tading is about nine kilometres from Phuentsholing.

A poultry and piggery farmer, Leela Bahadur Bhujel, said they never owned a van with a refrigerating facility before to ferry meat to Phuentsholing.

“The rule was implemented recently.”

He said they have not been able to supply any meat after the rule was implemented.

Leela Bahadur Bhujel said buying a meat van was expensive as farmers are already facing financial problems.

“Considering the distance between Tading and Phuentsholing, supplying the meat in ordinary vehicles was not a problem.”

Another livestock farmer, Kul Bahadur Ghalley, who has invested in a poultry (broiler) farm, said it is five years since he got into the business and they never ferried meat products in a van equipped with a cooling facility.

“The last two years have not gone well with us due to the pandemic-led lockdowns and restrictions. My financial status is not good enough to buy a meat van,” he said. “And right at the time when business is picking up another problem has struck us.”

Kul Bahadur Ghalley said that he had availed the priority sector lending (PSL) loan and has to repay the loan.

“But the primary market is inaccessible now.”

As per BAFRA’s regional office notification on July 19, meat suppliers have been asked to transport fresh local meat only in standard meat vans with effect from August 1.

The notification said that local meat transported in other vehicles than standard meat vans would be treated as unsafe and the product would be seized and discarded.

According to the BAFRA, frozen meat has to be transported in refrigerated vehicles and fresh meat in standard meat vans.

The notification also stated that the frozen meat transportation has been streamlined, but the local meat supply transportation has not.

The Amochhu police checkpoint doesn’t allow Tading livestock farmers to supply any meat.

Another farmer, Ugyen Lhamo, said she is having sleepless nights.

“Chickens eat three bags of feed daily. One bag of feed cost Nu 3,000. After 45 days, the chickens won’t grow but they will need feed,” she said.

Ugyen Lhamo said she has taken a loan of Nu 1.7 million.

She said bringing the meat with ice is difficult as there are none supplying ice cubes.

“Recently, chicken meat worth more than Nu 100,000 got spoiled while I was trying to process the permit,” she said.

Meanwhile, residents claim that such a move by the authorities will impact farmers in the country.

A supplier, Nirmal Ghalley, said he returned from overseas to do something at home, but it was not favourable with such rules.

The 28-year-old man said this is not motivating youth who want to work.

Tading gup Yam Bahadur Ghalley said the gewog has high meat production with many piggery and poultry farms.

“Farmers take 20 to 100kgs as per the demand from meat shops. They pack the meat with clean plastic sacks and use trays,” he said, adding that some suppliers have their own vehicles (Bolero).

“This new rule came out suddenly. Though this is done for safety, farmers can’t afford to buy such vans.”

Yam Bahadur Ghalley also said the rate of meat in the market is still the same, while the fuel and feed price has increased.

“Meat suppliers are demotivated now. We are requesting an immediate response from the concerned authority,” he said.