Choni Wangmo, 71, spends long days trying to earn Nu 300 from locally grown vegetables, cereals, and flour. “Customers hardly come here, and sometimes I cannot sell even a bundle of spinach,” she laments.

Choni Wangmo is one of the 22 vegetable vendors (all women) who relocated to a temporary space provided by the Samdrupjongkhar Thromde at Tendrelthang, located about 300 meters from the town towards the Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang highway. In 2021, Thromde dismantled the existing market shed to construct an integrated market shed with basic amenities.

Vendors buy fresh vegetables from a supplier from Gomdar

The temporary vegetable market shed, constructed with CGI and tarpaulin sheets, receives just a handful of customers and remains almost empty throughout the day. “After moving here, the customers had further declined,” Choni Wangmo said, recalling that the business was better in Narphung when she sold vegetables and other agricultural products to travelers along the Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang highway.

At the request of dzongkhag and thromde officials, Choni Wangmo and four other women (vendors) were moved to Samdrupjongkhar from Narphung in the early 2000s to provide vegetables for the town residents due to a shortage caused by militant problems. Narphung is about 60km from Samdrupjongkhar town.

Another vendor, Sangay Choden, 38, said that their businesses are affected since a majority of the town residents visit bordering towns to buy vegetables, available at cheap prices.

“Since our vegetables are perishable products, they get easily damaged, and we have to throw them away,” Sangay Choden said.

Vendors also attribute the decline in customers to the location, facing inconveniences due to dust, heat, rain, and a lack of proper storage facilities.

Selling mixed local and imported vegetables, one vendor said that they buy locally produced fresh vegetables from Gomdar, Narphung, and nearby areas.


Integrated vegetable market

The challenges the vendors face today are expected to be addressed after they move back to the newly constructed integrated market shed in the town. “We will have a better place with modern amenities and won’t have to worry about using tarpaulin sheets to protect the vegetables from the rain and the sun,” another vendor, Choki Wangmo, said.

According to Thromde officials, the new market shed is almost ready, and they will operate it soon. The proprietor of Wangthang Construction Private Ltd said that his company will hand over the integrated vegetable market shed to the Thromde by the end of this month.

Funded by the Government of India and constructed at the cost of Nu 65 million, the two-storied integrated vegetable shed has separate spaces for locally grown vegetables and imported ones, besides having a cold storage facility, public toilet, and parking space. Construction began in November 2021.

However, vendors remain skeptical about customers. “Given the present scenario where residents of Samdrupjongkhar town prefer to buy vegetables from across the border, we can’t say that our businesses will improve,” Sangay Choden said, adding that people’s mindset needs to change.

Contributed by

Rinzin Wangchuk