… only seven cooperative farming in Sarpang registered to use the facility

Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu

Following public consultations, at least seven farmer cooperatives in Sarpang registered to avail of the integrated cold storage facility at Samtenling along the Gelephu-Sarpang highway.

The 300 metric tonnes (MT) integrated cold storage, which was inaugurated in November last year, was not in operation until this month due to technical problems and some pending final touches.

Food Corporation of Bhutan’s (FCB) Gelephu regional director, Ugyen Choidup, said that the facility is ready for operation but users are not forthcoming.

“In fact, we are calling them to use the facility even after the awareness. We are also worried about why they are not coming,” he said.

He said that after the completion of the cold storage facility a month ago, FCB with the support of the Gelephu Regional Agriculture Marketing and Cooperatives Office (RAMCO) was able to register the farmer cooperatives. “We are in the process of signing the lease agreement with them.”

“There are many members of farmer groups with the RAMCO,” he said. “We carried out awareness among the farmer cooperatives, fishery, and piggery, vegetable, and meat vendors including interested individuals.”

Registered members can rent a space in the cold store with a monthly fee of Nu 27 per sq ft while non-members have to pay a fee of Nu 42 per sq ft.

“We have carefully analyzed the fees to kick start it, but the rate would gradually increase based on the situation. They have also agreed to this rate,” Ugyen Choidup said.

Encouraging the people to come forward to use the facility, he said, the FCB would extend the service for the nearby dzongkhags if the produce from Sarpang does not able to fill up the spaces.

Ugyen Choidup said that the demand for cold storage is expected to increase. “But our priority is exclusively for the people of Sarpang.”

The cold storage has 14 chambers—two chambers each for meat and dairy products, each chamber with a capacity of 25MT, eight chambers for fruits and vegetables, and two chambers for sorting and grading.

However, meat vendors said that the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) informed them of allowing only two types of meat—one type for each chamber, which discouraged them to avail the cold storage facility.

“Meat vendors are sceptical to use the facility due to the shortage of space. We want to keep all types of meat like pork, beef, chicken and fish, but there are only two chambers for meat,” said a member of the Sarpang Youth Group.

The meat vendors say they would go to the BAFRA and FCB to further discuss the issue before signing the lease agreement with the FCB.

The facility is expected to help farmers reduce food losses and preserve their surplus agricultural and livestock produce during summer and supply it to the schools and institutions, and other markets during winter.

The cold storage constructed at the cost of Nu 38.16 million is equipped with a temperature-monitoring system, and cooling fans, and connected to a phase-3 power supply.