Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

In the wake of Covid-19, to help farmers access market for their farm produce, an online Farmers’ Market System (OFMS) was launched on May 15 in Phuentsholing.

The OFMS is a joint initiative of Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) and the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan (RSEB).

It is to ensure that Covid-19 containment protocols are followed strictly at all levels. The system is also an extension to the existing Bhutan Commodities Market Initiative.

FCBL officials said it is broadly aimed at mapping production, spotting market and linking the parties by disseminating market information across the country.

OFMS has two modules. The first one is a simple and straightforward online market platform, which will serve as an information hub for the buyers and sellers. Farmers are expected to upload the details of their produce with their contact information to attract potential buyers without having to involve any third party.

Once they make the deal online, the logistics and the payment are expected to be negotiated between the two parties based on their mutual convenience. The platform is meant to serve as digital market place solely for the domestic market free of charge.

The second module is an aggregator model where FCBL will act as the aggregator to handle logistics and payment. FCBL will play a central role starting from purchase to logistics to payment settlement to export.

Officials said FCBL expect to roll out the programme as they receive necessary support and instructions from the government.

FCBL’s director for department of corporate business, Dorji Tashi said this system is launched as a method to tackle the risk of Covid-19.

“RSEBL is helping us free of cost,” he said.

“With this online system, there is no need of middlemen, which is helpful for the farmers.”

This means that traders from across the border will not have to come into Phuentsholing and they can order online from their respective places. FCBL will help the logistics.

Dorji Tashi said that this system will also offer farmers the opportunity to first see scope and opportunities to supply farm produce within the country itself where there are specific needs such as schools and hotels.

RSEBL CEO Dorji Phuntsho said the online system will go a long way in changing lives of rural folks and in transformation of agricultural market in the country.

“It wasn’t possible without the prospective partnership of FCBL,” he said.

In this difficult time, it is everyone’s responsibility to try and help the government and not just rely on the government for help, Dorji Phuntsho said.

He said that the online marketing practice should continue even after the Covid-19.

“It is just the beginning. We will need to improve and we cannot be complacent, “ he said.