Tshering Namgyal | Yadi

Yadi central school and four farmers’ groups of Ngatshang gewog signed an agreement on price of vegetables, poultry, cereal, and dairy products that the groups will supply for the academic year. 

The agreement covers prices of 31 vegetables, 10 fruits and six cereal items, eggs, dairy products and is part of the school and hospital feeding programme. 

However, the signing took almost the entire day as both sides proposed differing rates. 

The school authority wanted to maintain the minimum price the school and farmers’ groups mutually fixed a few years back through the initiative of the gewog administration and agriculture extension office. The farmers insisted on increasing the price based on the increased stipend for students but lower than the market price.

After much debate, the school’s proposed prices prevailed. 

The representatives said that the number of items and nutritious items served to students could be compromised if the rates were increased. 

Farmers’ group accepted price increments between Nu 2 to Nu 10 a kilogramme. 

The Regional Agriculture and marketing office (RAMCO) in Mongar coordinated the agreement signing. 

Some farmers’ even asked the coordinator the rate fixed between the farmers’ groups in other areas, which was kept confidential.

“I was not satisfied with the prices for many items but we had to agree thinking that it was better to sell than waste them,” a villager said.

Yadi Central School Principal, Pema Wangchuk said the school had to keep the rates as low as possible because the stipend would not be enough to provide adequate variety and nutritious items.

“We can pay your price but you will not benefit if we can’t afford to buy owing to budget constraints,” Pema Wangchuk said.

The four farmers’ groups agreed to supply to the listed items according to the requirement of the school weekly on a rotation basis for a year. The school would make the payment by the end of every month.

As part of the programme, the government has increased the stipend from Nu 1,000 to Nu 1,500 per student a month. Of that, Nu 600 a student goes to FCB for providing non-perishable items. The school has to manage with the remaining Nu 900 per student to provide perishable vegetable items, fruits and nutritious diets.

An agreement is also signed between Food Corporation of Bhutan and the school for the supply of meat items and livestock products in case the farmers cannot meet the school’s demand.  

“The overall intention is to boost the rural economy and encourage our rural farmers to go for large production. We are ready to kick start marketing the surplus products if there is any after meeting the local demand,” FCB’s Deputy General Manager of the school feeding programme, Ainesh Subbha said.

The FCB, Bhutan livestock development corporation (BLDC) and farm machinery corporation limited (FMCL) would work in collaboration with FCB to be the contact point for the schools, where BLDC and FMCL would deliver to the FCB’s identified locations and FCB would distribute. 

“We have already started supplying livestock products to schools in Ha dzongkhag since February and we are ready to supply any livestock product as back up as and when farmers fail,” the director of BLDC, Sithar Dorji said. 

The team of officials from three state-owned enterprises will tag with the RAMCO team throughout the region to draw up similar agreements. 

RAMCO’s regional agriculture marketing coordinator, Dorji Rinchen said they are trying to smoothen and strengthen the mutual agreement between the concerned parties legally.

For the eastern region, RAMCO started the programme from Mongar on February 7 and Yadi CS was the last among the eight schools in Mongar.  The team began in Lhuentse from yesterday.

 In the first phase, only schools with three meals were covered and the 56 schools in the six eastern dzongkhags covered by March 12.