Nima Wangdi 

With the country, reopening the border to international visitors on September 23, more colourful yathra products have hit the stands at yathra shops in Chumey, Bumthang.

They survived on meagre business for about two years after the Covid-19 pandemic hit Bhutan and stopped tourists, their major customers.

As the pandemic eased, local travellers and pilgrims started visiting the shops and bought yathra products. However, the sales were limited to a few products.

The yathra weavers in the villages sell their products to these two shops. The shops import and supply yarns to the weavers.

The owner of one of the yathra shops, Thogmey Yeshi said he started importing and supplying yarns to villagers. He could not do this for the last two years since there was no business.

He said rats destroyed his stocks. Fungus and insects destroyed them when the shop remained closed.

He is optimistic that the business would gain momentum once the tourists start coming. “Bumthang, with a number of festivals receive a good number of tourists. We had good business until the pandemic shattered everything.”

“Many products were out of stock but I have started to restock them,” he said, adding that yathra weaving is the main source of income for the people of Chumey gewog.

He said that besides the imported yarns, local wool is also available from Phobjikha in Wangdue, Dungmeythang in Bumthang and yak hair from Merak and Sakteng. But the products woven from local materials are expensive since they involve a lot of work, which includes spinning and dyeing.

The shops sell carpets, yathra pieces in rolls, jackets, bags, cushion covers, table covers, mufflers and handbags made out of yathra. However, some products like pencil bags that are stitched across the border ran out of stock since the border remained closed.

Another Yathra shop owner, Sonam Choden, 39 said that she has also started buying yathra products from the villagers. She plans to stitch more products from the yathra rolls she has bought so far.

“With the increase in sustainable development fee for tourists, we might see less tourists but I expect this would bring us enough business,” she said.

She has some products already but doesn’t display them all in front of her shop as she did before. “Only some products are on display but I would display more soon when the tourists arrive.”

One could also see people weaving yathra around their houses and shops.

A woman from Domkhar said that she started weaving yathra and will sell them to shops at Zungey in Chumey. “This was how we used to survive before the pandemic.”

Besides the two shops, yatra products are also sold in shops in Chamkhar town and in other parts of the country.