Pig farmers worried as demand for local pork drops
Choki Wangmo | Tsirang
As the demand for local pork plummets, feed prices are rising. And the mounting debts have pig farmers deeply worried.
More than 30 piggery farms in Gosarling Gewog have been grappling with marketing challenges for the past few months.
Nima Dolma Tamang started a piggery in 2012; she has 95 pigs today, out of which 31 are ready to be harvested. Without market for local pork, however, expenditure on feeds has increased by manifolds.
“Earlier, the lockdowns hampered our business and then when they were ready to be harvested in March, it was the auspicious month. Feed prices are increasing and we have loans to repay,” she said.
A pig is harvested after every eight months.
A 50kg Karma Feed costs Nu 1,850. An average farm needs about five 50kg bags in a day.
A piggery owner, TB Tamang, said that the farmers informed the officials. He has 45 pigs, Nu 500,000 loan, and Nu 100,000 to pay to the feed suppliers. “In the beginning, we received subsidies and support from the government, but without market we are at a loss.”
Farmers said the pork import from India has created challenges to local producers. Local pork costs between Nu 400 to Nu 500 while the imported ones are sold at Nu 350 per kg.
If we sell a kg of pork below Nu 400, we run into loss, said a farm owner in Tsirangtoed, San Man Subba. “The cost of production is high.”
A former tour guide, Wangchuk Chuwan, started a megafarm in Gosarling after he lost his job due to the pandemic in 2019.
Eleven months into the business, he said that the challenges faced by the farmers require government support. He is also planning to start a cooperative to help solve the marketing issue.
“Without market, livestock farmers are vulnerable,” he said, adding that some are discouraged to carry on with the business.
The challenge is expected to worsen as the traditional auspicious month approaches.
A kg of pork in Dagana costs Nu 350 per kg. A large-scale producer in Tashiding, Dagana Sidaman Gurung, said that the government should give priority to the local producers.
Another farmer said that the government should allow import only when local production is low.
According to records with the dzongkhag, Dagana has 203 piggeries, including commercial and mega farms.
In Sarpang, a rough survey conducted among 40 pig farmers in Shompangkha, found that there are over 14,000kg of pork ready for sale, more than 300 piglets, and 200 pigs ready for birth.
Farmers from the dzongkhag appealed to the dzongkhag livestock sector and other relevant stakeholders to impose ban on frozen pork.
“There were no market problems before, as there was no home production in the past. We have a surplus production this year. Reducing the import would also help the farmers,” a farmer said.
Officials from the gewog said that the number of farmers taking up commercial farming increased in the face of the pandemic. Many had returned home and taken up agriculture farming in the past three years.
An official from the dzongkhag livestock sector said it was planning to link up the farmers with Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation Limited to solve the market problems. The dzongkhag would allow the selling of piglets outside the dzongkhag to solve the market problem, according to the officials from the dzongkhag.
There are close to 70 pig farms with a minimum of five piglets in the dzongkhag today, excluding farmers rearing pigs on a back-yard level, according to the record with the dzongkhag livestock sector.
Additional reporting by Nima