Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Not allowing people to gather in big groups has directly affected a small, but growing business on the outskirts of Mongar town.

A youth group, Mongar Nazhoen Gongphel Dheytshen, makes cookies from various locally grown cereals. It is a big hit as snacks at meetings, training and workshops. Such events provided them with a good market.

However, with the impact of coronavirus not sparing even small businesses, the group has suspended operation.

Their main clients like the Queen’s Project, One Gewog One Product (OGOP) and Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation have stopped placing orders. The youth group is currently selling the remaining few packets of cookies.

The group was formed by three graduates in 2018 that initially planned kiwi and avocado plantation and approached the Agriculture Research Development Centre (ARDC), Wengkhar for technical support.

The Programme Director (PD), Lhab Dorji, suggested the group to venture into making varieties of cookies using local resources.

After availing a loan of about Nu 400,000 from the erstwhile REDCL, they started a processing unit at Trailing in a concrete shed provided by the dzongkhag agriculture sector along with a de-husking machine.

The CARLEP project and the regional agriculture marketing cooperative office (RAMCO) also supported the group.

Last year, they produced over 10,000 packets of cookies. Members said the ARDC, Wengkhar was the only agency that gives high regard to the cookies and promotes the product. “Whenever there is a training or meeting, the PD always ordered for our product and we have been surviving by selling a few packets from the dairy and agro products from the sales counter,” a member, Kezang Tshering.

An IT graduate from India who pursued certificate course in horticulture in the country and later completed a diploma in agro studies from Israel, Kezang Tshering said the group is ready to manufacture cookies from any local cereals in large quantities should the market situation improves.

“We have participated in a few major events like flower exhibition in Samdrupjongkhar and trade show in Thimphu but we could not capture the market as of now,” said the 35-year-old.

Currently, they make cookies manually and the packaging is done with the help of a company in India. “We’re planning to buy an auto machine and labelling machine and increase the production and lower the price if there is a good market,” another member, Kinley Penjor said.

However, the group is doing well with quinoa business. With the transportation support from RAMCO, the group collected quinoa worth Nu 1.2 million from which they earned around Nu 600,000 after paying the local farmers. They buy quinoa at Nu 100 per kilogramme and sold at Nu 200 after de-husking.

Last year, each of the members earned between Nu 11,000 to Nu 13,000 a month. All three members, meanwhile, had applied for the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu.