Subsidizing utility vehicles to cooperatives will help farmers: Opposition Leader

To rescue the farmers struggling to sell their produce, if the government comes up with production mapping and subsidizing utility vehicles to cooperatives, it will help the farmers at these times, according to Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi.

He said that it was the government that encouraged the farmers to increase production to meet local demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Now, farmers are struggling to sell their produce and the government should look into the issue immediately.”

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that the farmers have ventured into mass production by taking loans from the National CSI bank. If the government comes up with various schemes like subsidizing utility vehicles to cooperatives to transport the farmers’ produce to other Dzongkhags.

“Currently, the farmers from Dagana, Sarpang, and Zhemgang are unable to sell their vegetables and other farm produce because they face challenges without utility vehicles,” he said, adding that this is the main cause of price hike of local produce and inflation.

He explained that these days, the farmers from Dagana, Sarpang, and Zhemgang are not bringing their produce to Thimphu because the cost of transportation is high. “Our farmers face challenges to bring their produce to the markets,” he said.

“There is a dichotomy, when the government can invest millions in mass production there should be a certain amount for distribution and marketing,” he said, adding that this is one reason why the government is not able to connect the farmers and markets.

According to the Opposition Leader, the government is investing more to set up cold storage but if the government strengthens the production mapping, cold storage is not an option. “If there is excess of production then only it comes to cold storage,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) agrees that subsidizing utility vehicles to cooperatives will help the farmers to transport their produce.

According to Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, to help the farmers in the Covid situation, the government is going with a big loss implementing the buy-back scheme.

“We are buying farmers’ produce and transporting to other dzongkhags bearing all the transportation charges, where all this transportation cost is a loss on the government,” Lyonpo said.

The minister explained that the government is buying the 35-kg cabbage bag for Nu 450 from the farmers and when they transport to other dzongkhags, more than the price from selling cabbage, the transportation cost is more.

According to the Lyonpo, last year during the cabbage season, the government had to bear Nu 2.7mn for cabbages just from Najay gewog. Overall from the country, the government had to bear around Nu 4.2mn for cabbages alone.

“The production mapping has been implemented and the government is taking the western farmers to produce to eastern dzongkhags and vise-versa, likewise from southern to other parts of the country,” Lyonpo added.

“Likewise, we have other vegetables including potatoes, onion, carrot, and ginger among others. For all these, the government is bearing the loss but the government is trying to help our farmers.”

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu