Tshering Namgyal  | Mongar

“We won’t die of COVID-19 but of starvation for sure.”

In Mongar, this is an oft-repeated phrase. There has been price rise, particularly for vegetables, recently; rush in the market has become a kind of new normal.

On the top floor of the town’s three-storey vegetable market where local products are sold, local potatoes are now sold at Nu 60 per kg. The price rise is between Nu 10-50 depending on vegetables. For example, the price of cauliflower has risen from Nu 50 to Nu 80 per kg. Same for broccoli. Beans are selling for Nu 150 to 200 per kg.

“Everything gets sold so quickly these days,” said Dorji, a farmer from Chali village.

The prices of imported vegetable such as onion, tomato and ginger, among others. have also increased.

“The suppliers in the border areas bring the vegetables inside the gate now and they charge extra for that,” a vendor said.

A bag of SK Gold rice now costs anywhere between Nu 1,450-Nu 1,900. A 5-litre oil costs at least Nu 450. Prices of dry fish and dry chili have increased to at least 400 per kg.

“I did not stock items after hearing the announcement on the BBS. But I had to buy 45kg SK Gold rice at Nu 1,850. There is panic buying,” said Dema, a farmer from Jamchoeling.

Customers say that shopkeepers have ganged up to fix prices of the commodities. Some shopkeepers say they are left without a choice.

Many shopkeepers blame price rise on increased transportation cost. They now have to pay up to Nu 50,000 on transportation cost via Thimphu.

“There is a need to regulate prices of the commodities,” a civil servant said. “Long-term impact on the people could be serious.”

Mongar’s thromde thuemi, Namgay Dorji, said that vendors were told not to increases prices of commodities.

An official of regional trade and industry said that the situation was being monitored to address unfair trade practices.

“However, we have been informed by some traders that transporting commodities via Thimphu is expensive and, hence, the price rise,” said officiating regional director, Karma T Rinzin.