Agriculture: A number of vegetable groups in Phongmey are left struggling due to small market. Despite bountiful harvest every year, members are unable to market their products.

There are seven vegetable groups in the gewog. Their only reliable market is the Dungtse Central School (DCS).

Dorji Lhamo, chairman of Bumtang Tshesey Tshogpa, said the group could only sell about 30 percent of their vegetables last year. “After working hard in our gardens, it is discouraging to see that almost 50 percent of our vegetables go to waste. It is because we have more vegetable groups.”

Members said that the vegetable business in the gewog worse a few years back. In 2006, Tshering Penjor, chairman of Jangjangma Tshesey Tshogpa, together with a few villagers, formed the first vegetable group in Phongmey. Back the nearest market meant travelling to Trashigang town or Samdrupjongkhar.

“In order to compete with the vegetables imported from India, we had to sell our vegetables at very low rates,” said Tshering Penjor. “Sometimes, we couldn’t recover the transportation charges.”

Transporting the vegetables became difficult during summers when the Yudiri (river) swell. In 2014, the gewog took the initiative to market vegetables to Samdrupjongkhar but Yudiri had washed away the road. They were left stranded.

“We had to wait for almost two days until the block was cleared. The monsoon damaged all the vegetables by the time we reached FCB auction yard,” said Phongmey Mangmi Namgyel Wangdi.  About 800kg vegetables had to be dumped at the landfill in Samdrupjongkhar. The incident left members discouraged.

Today, DCS buys about 2500kg vegetables from the groups every week. To sustain all vegetable groups, the groups have resorted to supply vegetables to the school on a rotation basis.

“Without a timetable for supplying the vegetables, some groups supplied more. So we agreed to supply turn wise,” Tshering Penjor said.

Phongmey chiwog tshogpa, Yonten Jamtsho, said that supplying vegetables to the school becomes difficult when the season is over.

“At times, we buy from other villages and supply to the school. After entering into a contract, groups have to meet the school’s demands,” he said.

Tshering Wangdi | Trashigang