The residents of the remote community of Muktangkhar, about 20 kilometers away from main Trashigang town and famed for producing a variety of local products, have seen their everyday business dwindled after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The village is famed for the business of producing varieties of local products such as Ezay, Zaw (roasted puff rice), beaten rice, chili powder, walnut, Kepta, and groundnuts, which would be marketed to Trashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar.
However, they say their business has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as they have lost the market and are restricted to travel to Samdrup Jongkhar after the pandemic. Six to seven households do this business from around 17 households and they take turn to take their products to the main market in Samdrup Jongkhar.
A 41-year-old Norzom, who used to send her products for sale mostly to Samdrup Jongkhar, said she has lost her business since after the lockdown.
“I used to earn Nu 40,000 to Nu 30,000 per trip before the pandemic, but now I get Nu 20,000 to Nu 15,000 per trip,” she said.
Since the markets aren’t the same like in the past, they have also reduced the quantity of the product that they used to produce.
Norzom said they incurred huge loss after they were restricted to travel for their business after the lockdown.
“After the lockdown, I brought my products to nearby places and Trashigang,” she said, adding that the profit is minimal.
She said it would be helpful if the government could help them to get a grinding machine to ease their works in making powdered products.
Choney from Muktangkhar said as they have been restricted to travel to get to the main market in Samdrup Jongkhar, she had found a new market at Kanglung.
“I have to continue my business even in little ways as I have to take care of my children,” she said.
After the pandemic, she hardly earns Nu 10,000 to Nu 5,000 per trip as the demand from shopkeepers has also come down.
“I could earn about Nu 50,000 to 40,000 per trip before.” She is worried that she won’t be able to help and meet the basic needs of her two school-going children.
Another businesswoman, Sonam Zangmo said she used to make one to two trips per month and used to earn Nu 30,000 to 25,000 per trip. However, after the COVID-19 pandemic, she had stopped her business.
“I make these products when there is demand from other individuals,” she said, adding that she can’t afford to buy necessary items to prepare these products.
She said that her life was different when she was doing the business. But after the pandemic, she said she is not even able to buy necessary household items for her family.
Another businesswoman, Karma Wangzom said she had also left doing business due to the pandemic.
“Before I used to buy essential items from Samdrup Jongkhar but now the prices of the commodities have increased and I can’t afford to buy any,” she said, adding that she earned Nu 30,000 to Nu 20,000 before the pandemic.
“I am unable and cannot afford to even buy necessary items now. After the lockdown, the prices of chilies and other grocery items have increased. With less income, I couldn’t afford to buy any,” she said.
She added, “I have a son as a monk after I couldn’t afford schooling for him as a single parent. I have not been able to buy even school accessories for my daughter after the closure of central school.” “My girl, who is studying in the fifth grade, left for the school with her old school stuffs.”
Tenzin Lhamo from Trashigang