The demand for greens

Bhutanese are not vegetable consumers. They could do without it for weeks. All they need is chillies, considered a spice elsewhere. This may be a generalisation but holds true to an extent.

The demand for vegetables in the past few weeks overwhelmed the government and those trying to ease the pressure from a nationwide lockdown. An army of volunteers engaged in distributing vegetables in the capital city and by evening yesterday, about 80 metric tonnes of vegetables were delivered to the capital’s desperate residents.

While the government is apologetic of the inconveniences caused, what we must understand is that the government in the wake of a pandemic is fighting a battle from two fronts. The lockdown is a measure to break the chain of community transmission. Controlling the spread of the virus in the community is the biggest concern now.

The novel coronavirus has been around for eight months. We have seen how governments handle the pandemic and its repercussions. We have managed it well so far. We can do even better if each one of us can take it as a personal Genkhu (responsibility).

The inconvenience caused by the lockdown is recognised from the highest authority. But this shouldn’t be misunderstood as a right to pressure those fighting to make the country safe. The priority is to get the virus under control and let life return to normal. Without us cooperating, the lockdown will continue. In an emergency situation, we have to compromise. From our demands from fresh fruits to meat to tobacco and alcohol, we seem a little too much pampered.

All efforts are put in place to ensure that people receive essential or not go hungry. Salt, cooking oil, sugar, rice and chillies in or case, are the basic essentials. Beyond that, it is a luxury in the present scenario. There are a few genuine cases where basic essentials have run out. These should be identified. A special hotline could come handy to address genuine needs. By and large, this emergency is a luxurious emergency where everything is dropped at the doorsteps.

We are lucky that the lockdown happened at a time when we produce more than what we consume.  During normal times, we would be exporting vegetables and fruits around this time. There is no shortage of it. It will be delivered or made accessible. From today, we will see some shops open. If we rush to hoard and forget the lockdown protocols, we will risk ourselves of a prolonged lockdown.

Authorities are coordinating to ensure that essentials like cheese, milk and butter are brought in from other dzongkhags. Should the lockdown extend, those coordinating are better prepared now. There is no reason to panic. As we spend time in the safety of our homes, it would be wiser to think of a new normal.

Since the border closure and the instant impact of the pandemic on some sectors, we have enhanced agriculture. We were not wrong. The pandemic has made it possible to reach perishable goods to Thimphu in a day without getting damaged. All these indicate that we have the potential to ensure food self-sufficiency, a goal that we dreamt decades ago.

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