Local supplies unable to meet demand

MB Subba

The ongoing lockdown in India has led to a shortage of doma (areca nut) and paney (betel leaves) in the market.

Pan shops in Thimphu have run out of imported doma and paney. The unavailability of the goods will lead to a decline in their income, shopkeepers say.

However, local suppliers are trying to fill up the gap by procuring them from within the country. While the paney is available in most dzongkhags, doma is found only in some dzongkhags that share the border with India.

A wholesaler at the Centenary Farmers’ Market in Thimphu, Sherub Tenzin, said he was receiving his supplies from Sarpang. He said that the country has enough doma and paney if harvested.

The wholesaler, who comes from Sarpang, said that paney were found in abundant in most gewogs of his dzongkhag. The betel leaves are found in the forests of Trongsa, Punakha, Tsirang and Dagana, among other dzongkhags.

“We can be self-sufficient in both doma and paney. We export doma grown in our country and import them at a higher price,” he said.

A bundle of paney cost between Nu 35 to Nu 100 depending on the size and quality.

Another vendor at the market said that she was receiving her supply from Gedu. She said that each bunch of her betel leaves cost Nu 5 in Gedu but that she had to sell it at Nu 35 due to transportation costs.

However, it has been difficult for suppliers to meet the demand with local betel leaves.

A pan shop owner in Thimphu said that she had not sold doma for few days due to lack of betel leaves. She said that she had asked for betel leaves from Samtse.

Moreover, locally available betel leaves do not have shelf life. Imported ones come in proper packages, which can be stored for days.

The lack of imported leaves in the market has also given the opportunity to earn some income. Sources in dzongkhags said that many farmers have been combing the jungles for betel leaves.

A vendor from Samtse said that he was supplying both doma and paney leaves to Thimphu. He said that the business was picking up rapidly.

The government has not officially banned their import from the neighbouring Indian states.