Phub Dem | Haa

It has only been a few years since farmers in Haa switched from growing grains to carrots. It had been a successful commercial venture.

However, today, they are struggling to sell the produce due to lack of market. While the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) has intervened to buy the carrots, farmers in Hatey and Chumpa under Bji gewog are unhappy with its price. The price for a sack weighing about 40 kilogrammes of carrot dropped as low as Nu 100.

Passang from Chumpa said farmers sold their carrots to FCB, who promised to pay Nu 500 a sack, but they paid only Nu 100 without any explanation. He said that if carrots were rejected based on their quality, the office should inform them.

“We have sent our contact details written on each sack so that they return the produce if it is rejected.”

He said that even private vendors were unreliable as they did not collect the produce after farmers harvested the crop. “It is a complete loss. I could not even recover the cost of labour.”

Gado from Hatey said that officials from FCB, dzongkhag agriculture and gewog officials visited the farms asking farmers to repackage the carrots and promised to pay Nu 500 a bag. “We are informed that some carrots are rejected, but they paid the same price.”

About 80 percent of the farmers in Bji gewog grow carrots. While some managed to sell it to FCB and private vendors at a lower price, what is left would be cattle feed.

Tsenka-Talung tshogpa Passang said that FCB should ask farmers if they wanted to sell their produce at Nu 100 or return their stock. “We have informed the dzongkhag agriculture office, and there are no clear directives on how to address the problem.”

He said that some farmers did not collect the amount saying that they want their carrots instead.

Locals asked why FCB paid Nu 700 to other farmers and Nu 100 to those in Hatey and Chumpa.

According to Gyem, a resident, highlanders in Haa grow only carrots and potatoes, and farmers are facing a significant challenge in marketing them. She said that FCB bought some sacks at Nu 700 once and then stopped.

Due to a delay in harvesting the produce, Tashi Dema from Katsho gewog said that the carrots were already matured, and cracked. “We cannot sell such produce and are incurring a huge loss.”

Without any alternative, some farmers are selling their produce to some private vendors at Nu 450 a sack.

In the past, a bag of carrots fetched as high as Nu 2,000.

Usually, farmers harvest carrots twice a year. However, the farmers couldn’t sell their first harvest due to poor demand.

Tashi Dema said that farmers at this time of the year would be working on their winter harvest. She is now growing wheat and turnips. “It is disappointing when we cannot sell what we have worked on for months.”

In the meantime, Bji gewog administration wrote to the dzongdag, the agriculture office and FCB raising concerns on the access to market and price.

The letter states that the gewog had been receiving numerous complaints as FCB and dzongkhag agriculture office could not address the issue, adding that farmers are incurring substantial loss.


FCB clarifies

According to FCB zonal coordinator, Pema Dorji, farmers sent FCB around 322 bags of carrots which were harvested three days earlier. Although FCB promised Nu 500 a bag, he said that by the time the carrots reached India, they were all rotten. He said that the counterpart in India asked FCB to take back the produce.

He said that FCB bargained Nu 100 per bag as it was impossible to send the produce back. “We have informed the gewog agriculture extension and tshogpas about it and explained the situation.”

He said that for the time being, FCB stopped collection as there was no demand from India, and the price was significantly less. “As farmers expect high prices, we cannot intervene.”

He added that if the lockdown in Phuntsholing is lifted, the farmers and private dealers have the privilege of open trade.


DAO requests Department of Agriculture 

Studying the carrot production in the dzongkhag, the DAO of Haa Karchung said that FCB and local vendors could not solve the problem.

The agriculture office wrote to the Department of Agriculture yesterday seeking support for the marketing of carrots. The letter states that while the local private buyers are still marketing the carrots, there is still a substantial quantity of carrots in the field.

As of yesterday, 192 metric tonnes (MT) of carrots were sold, but there are still 202MT in the fields about to go to waste.

The office sought the department’s support to market the remaining produce. He said that the office would follow up with the department and expect to develop a solution at the earliest.