Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu

It is hot in Sarpang these days. With temperature averaging at 33 degree Celsius, not many can work outdoors or without a fan, even indoors. But those in the seasonal business of roasting and selling corn by the roadside, it is not an issue.

In trying to make some extra income, villagers have found roadside vending of roasted corn a lucrative business, even in the sweltering heat. Selling roasted corn had been an alternative source of income for many villagers. Villagers of Punakha and Thimphu started it when they found the busy dzongkhag roads as a business opportunity. 

On the Gelephu-Sarpang highway, Sonam has replicated the business. She begins her day at 6 am and stays up till 7 pm. The 39-year-old who resettled at Khengpagang in Samtenling gewog had been in the business for the past 12 years.  “It has been sustaining my family for over a decade. Despite the heat, we stay in the business because there is no alternative,” she said.

A lot of hard work goes into the business.  “I wake up as early as 4 am every day to find the fresh corn in the villages,” said Sonam. She takes home about Nu 1,000 a day when the business is good. 

Another seller, Pema Choden, 37, from Khengpagang is happy to make her ends meet by selling corn along with other fresh fruits and vegetables.

“People enjoy the taste of roasted corn and love eating it fresh,” she said. However, with many finding the business profitable, they are seeing stiff competition. “The market is slowing, but it is still better than any other business,” she said.

“I used to sell about 150 to 200 cobs of corn a day before the outbreak of the pandemic. Now I barely finish 50 cobs of corn per day,” she said.

Getting help from the gewog’s Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) Research center, Pema said, encouraged her to invest in the business. She was able to start the business after attending a training programme by RNR-RC.

Some challenges, Pema said, were the lack of a permanent market shed for roadside vendors and the poor quality of maize, which is used as cattle fodder.