Staff Reporter 

With shortage of meat, layer chickens from local farms are selling like hot cakes in Thimphu under the guise of “local chicken”.

That’s not because layer chicken is the most popular meat with consumers, but there are hardly any other meat items available in the market after the government banned the import of meat in March due to Covid-19.

Local suppliers and farm entrepreneurs are struggling to meet the demand.

Most meat shops in Thimphu yesterday had hardly anything to sell. Some vendors had broiler chicken, beef and mutton from local farms but they were not enough to meet the demand.

A meat vendor in Thimphu said that pork, which is popular with consumers, had become scarce. He said that he received a few quintals of pork on Saturday but that they were sold out within an hour.

“Some customers make advance payments for meat. People also look for fish but there has been no supply for weeks now,” he said.

Vendors said that the import ban has affected their income. But they said that rent waivers had come to their rescue.

A consumer said that she was “lucky to grab” four kilogrammes of pork on Saturday by being one of the first customers. “I will keep some for me and send the rest to my family members in Phuentsholing,” she said.

But the shortage would have been more severe if hotels were open.

The import ban has also shown a great potential in meat farming in the country. One of the reasons for the inability to achieve self-sufficiency in meat is said to be the religious belief.

The agriculture ministry wants to take the Covid-19 pandemic as a blessing in disguise.

The minister recently wrote to all 20 dzongdags to encourage farmers in their respective dzongkhags coordinate with agriculture and livestock officials to provide assistance to farmers to increase production of food, vegetables and meat.

The agriculture minister, Yeshey Penjore, in an earlier interview said that there was no need for farmers to worry about possible over- production or lack of market. “I urge our farmers to produce as much as possible without worrying about market,” he said.

Last year, the country imported more than 12,102 metric tonnes of meat, worth Nu 1.134 billion, according to a recently released Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) annual statistics.