Sherab Lhamo

In the early hours before dawn, while most are still cozily nestled in their beds, the parking lot opposite the Centenary Farmers Market (CFM) in Thimphu gradually transforms into a bustling scene, with Boleros filling the space.

By 7 am, the footpath and the parking lot near the bridge are packed with vegetable vehicle vendors and sellers stationed on the footpaths, meticulously arranging their produce for the day.

As the sun peeks through the mountains, customers carrying baskets stroll through the queue of vendors, inquiring about prices and inspecting the freshness of the produce.

Approximately 13 vehicle vendors and nearly 15 sellers can be seen offering their goods.

Being a vehicle vendor is no easy task, as they only get to sell their goods four times a month.

Among today’s vendors is Halka Maya, 40, who has been an aggregator for seven years, hailing from Dagana, Dazha. Halka and other vehicle vendors supply their goods to the vendors inside the CFM and Kaja Throm. Any surplus produce is sold directly at a wholesale rate.

Some customers expressed that the presence of these vendors enables them to enjoy local, fresh, and affordable vegetables.

Reflecting on her journey, Halka says, “As an aggregator, I’ve been able to support my three children through high school and college. However, there are times when business doesn’t go as well as we had hoped.”

A typical day for Halka begins when she reaches Thimphu at around 12am, parking her car in the CFM vicinity and sleeping in her vehicle. The next day, at around 7am, she starts by delivering vegetables to the vendors and subsequently sets up her shop in the parking lot.

By 6pm, she wraps up her produce. For the night, she rests in her car, only to embark on her journey back to Dagana.

Halka observes that compared to the past, they don’t get as many customers, prompting vendors to lower the prices of their goods.

“When I come to Thimphu, I bring extra produce for my daughter, who stays with my friend here. As she is currently studying in Debsi, I try to come often, but as I have to sell my produce, I can meet her only once a month,” she adds.

Lhawang Dolma, a 34-year-old aggregator, shares that every Tuesday she travels from Tsirang Mendrelgang, reaching Thimphu by 6 pm. Afterward, she spends the night at her sister’s place.

The very next day, around 6 in the morning, she delivers the vegetables to the vendors in CFM and Kaja Throm, parking her car in an empty slot opposite the CFM mart near the bridge. She commences selling her goods from 6:30am to 1pm, after which she packs her goods and heads back to her hometown.

For vendors selling their produce throughout the day, the cost for parking fee is around Nu. 600 to 700. In Lhawang’s case, she pays Nu 300 for half the day

She notes that any unsold vegetables are given to her sister, although most of the time she successfully sells all her goods.

Like Halka and Lhawang, numerous vendors journey from their villages to Thimphu, aiming to earn a modest profit.