A farmer walks into a bar in Trashigang town. “Give me a bottle of chilled beer,” he orders the bartender. The bartender comes up with a glass and a canned beer.

“I want the bottled one, not this,” says the farmer. “This is the only beer we have,” responds the bartender. Disgruntled, the farmer leaves the bar.

Lately, people buying a case of beer (12 bottles) are compelled to buy a set of canned beer (four cans) in Trashigang. A case of bottled beer is Nu 600 and a set of canned beer is Nu 200.

This rule is applied on buying the Druk 11,000 beer.

Beer distributers and agents in Trashigang have started imposing the new rule for almost two weeks now.

The lone beer agent in Trashigang, Namsai Beer Agent’s owner, Wangchuk Tenzin, said they are imposed the same rule while buying beer from the factory in Pasakha.

It was learnt that for every 10 cases of bottled Druk 11,000 beer, the factory mandates the beer agents to take one case (24nos) of canned beer.

“It’s been almost five months now that this new rule has been imposed on the agents by the factory,” said Wangchuk Tenzin. “But because there are less people buying the canned beer, we could not immediately apply the same rule here until two weeks ago.”

He said that when he explained his customers that they have to buy canned beer at 10 percent of the total bottled beer, customers refused and went to buy from other retail shops. “It affected the business and the canned beer stock was pilling up. With no other option, we have now started to make it compulsory for people to buy canned beer if they take bottled beer in cases.”

Wangchuk Tenzin said there was no reasoning whatsoever from the factory while imposing the new rule. “They just said that we have to take canned beer at 10 percent of the total bottle beer purchase.”

Another beer distributor in Trashigang, Yeshi Lhamo of Pema Bakery, said that beer agents in Samdrupjongkhar and Phuentsholing refused to sell bottled beers if they didn’t take the canned beers.

“Canned beers do not have much market here. People are reluctant to buy,” she said. “We have to forcefully make them buy the canned beer because we have no other option then to force them.”

Yeshi Lhamo said that even the regular customers are reluctant with the new rule and accuse them of making the regulation. She added Druk 11,000 has a better market than other varieties of beer in Trashigang. “Because there is no other alternative from where we can get the 11,000 beers, we have to follow what they say.”

On an average, Pema Bakery sells 100 cases of bottled beers daily. With the new rule in place, the sales have reduced, according to Yeshi Lhamo.

Namsai Beer Agent sells about 800 cases of bottled beer (9,600 bottles) every week. However, it manages to sell about three cases (72 cans) of canned beer a week.

A case of Druk 11,000 bottled beer costs Nu 600 and a case of canned beer (24nos) costs Nu 1,200. Although the quantity of the bottled beer is 150ml more than the canned beer, the cost of both the beer from the agent is Nu 50.

It was also learnt that the beer agent is yet to receive his last four consignments of beer from the factory. Each consignment carries more than 700 cases of bottled beer at Nu 464,026.

Meanwhile, the head of marketing department of Bhutan Brewery Pvt Ltd in Pasakha, Kinley, said that in the agreement between the beer agents and the factory, the 10 percent mandatory rule to buy canned beers along with the bottles beers is reflected.

“The canned beer is also our product and the agents have agreed to take all our products,” he said. “We have mentioned this in our meetings with the agents. They cannot just take the products having higher market sale and leave the ones with lower value.”

Kinley said the factory has equipment worth more than Nu 250 million (M) that is procured to produce canned beer. “While the cost of production of a single canned beer is lower than the bottled beer, we understand that there is not much market for canned beer in the east.”

However, he said that the factory has not directed any agents on imposing the customers to buy the canned beer and it is up to the marketing strategies of the respective agents to sell the canned beer.

Bhutan Brewery Pvt Ltd produces about 14,000 cases (168,000 bottles) of bottled beer weekly. Based on the demand, the factory produces about 20 cases (480nos) of canned beer monthly.

Younten Tshedup  | Trashigang