Choki Wangmo

With only two hours allocated for vegetable business in a week at the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM), local wholesalers say they want time for business to reduce wastage.

A vegetable wholesaler, Chencho, waited since six in the morning at the CFM gate yesterday. By eight, he was asked to leave the market. He couldn’t sell even a quarter of his potatoes and chillies brought to Thimphu the previous night from Wangdue.

He procures vegetables from his village and sells them to the vendors at CFM. “I have no choice but to transport it back to Wangdue and then bring it next week. I hope we are allowed to sell the remaining produce. The profit is better. Sometimes, we have to return without any profit and have to bear extra expenses of transporting it back and forth.”

A wholesaler who came from Jawakha in Punakha said that after she was told to leave CFM around 8.30am, she went around Thimphu selling her vegetables. But with the current Covid-19 situation, vegetable demand had dropped in hotels and other related sectors, she said.

With increased local production, wholesalers are finding it more competitive to sell their produce. Even if they could, the price was an issue, a local wholesaler at CFM said.

With abundant supply of chillies, potatoes, and cucumbers, vendors have a choice and they bargain, he said. “I won’t be able to sell my vegetables in these two hours even at a lower price.”

Some of the wholesalers came from Wangdue, Punakha, and Paro the previous night to make it early at the market while some slept in their pick-up trucks near CFM.

“On Wednesdays, I come from Punakha around 3am and wait for the market to open,” one said.

At the site yesterday, Kuensel found wholesalers, vendors, and customers crowding at the CFM parking. Some wholesalers were directly selling to the customers from their pick-up trucks. De-suups could do little to control the crowd.

CFM Manager Tshering Tenzin said that the situation was not new in the market. He said that it occurred frequently during harvest season when produce from across the dzongkhags reach Thimphu.

“Considering the welfare of vendors and customers, we cannot allocate more than two hours to wholesalers. We have to be considerate of everyone instead of individual farmers,” Tshering Tenzin said. “The time is allotted for loading and unloading. Farmers and vendors take a lot of time in price negotiation.”

He said that the management had tried to allocate empty stalls to wholesalers but many refused and wanted to sell at the parking. “We cannot accommodate all wholesalers inside the CFM market due to Covid-19 protocols.”

Thimphu Thrompon Ugyen Dorji, who joined office last week, said that the situation at CFM could be the result of the current pandemic. “Once the Covid-19 situation subsides, we will know the real scenario. If it remains the same, then we need to look for solutions.”

He said that the thromde would consult the agriculture ministry to understand and find solutions for the current problems at CFM.