Nima | Gelephu

In Gelephu, with only designated shops allowed to deliver essential items during the lockdown, the locally produced food products find it difficult to capture the already shirking market.

There are more than three small and cottage industries involved in food processing in Sarpang Gelephu today. The entrepreneurs said there was a need to start a proper linkage with the market.

The firms are allowed to operate with containment measures after getting official verification from the incident commander secretariat office.

The owners say there is also a need to give equal importance to market the products.

Owner of Bhu-Org farm from Gelephu, Kamal Pradhan, said that there was a need to create a platform for local entrepreneurs to market and address issues concerning local products in the pandemic time.

“In the name of essential items, only imported goods are given importance. If adequate support is given, the local manufacturer could also sell products that are of daily use,” he said.

He added that the price might differ but there should at least be an effort to market looking at the current scenario.

Bhu-Org farm produces organic products such as organic mustard oil, fertilizer and yogurts among others.

Kamal Pradhan said there would be a problem but there is a need to address these challenges. “We cannot make home deliveries but we could tie-up with the shops that are allowed to do home delivery. The same support should also be given to local livestock products,” he said.

He added that the challenges lie in having a proper supply chain, a proper storage facility, and reaching the products to the consumers at a reasonable price. “Local product is of high nutritional value. There is a need to educate consumers of food health and habits,” said Kamal Pradhan.

The owner of Crystal moon product, Chimi Dema, said that she couldn’t buy raw materials like in the past years.

“Farmers are also not able to sell their raw materials. We produce on a small scale and the price of products increases. We couldn’t do marketing as expected,” she said.

Crystal moon product could recently sell products with the help of officials from regional agriculture and marketing cooperatives in Gelephu. The products were sold at an online trade fair.

An online platform to sell the local product was started but with the lockdown in place, she couldn’t pursue the opportunity any further.

“This is not a good year for the business. I was recommended not to produce if there is a marketing problem. But, that couldn’t be the solution. Many youth and women depend on the firm for their livelihood. I have to sustain the business,” said Chimi Dema.

She added that it would benefit the local products if local products were also considered for home deliveries during the lockdown phase. “There would be some consumers who like to try our products,” she said.

With the decline in travel abroad, the market for local products reduced drastically. Local products were mostly bought as a gift when Bhutanese travelled abroad.

The entrepreneurs said there was a need to establish a sustainable link between wholesalers and the local products, as the situation normalises.

The firms collected raw materials from farmers directly. However, they couldn’t buy raw materials like in the past and reduced production, as they struggled to market their produce.

Currently, the Sarpang Covid-19 task force allowed more than nine livestock product collectors to move during the lockdown and received applications from more than four ongoing construction and CSI activities to operate in containment mode.