WE KILLED OUR GOLDEN GOOSE

NAWANG PHUNTSHO

Business Bhutan - - Editorial - The writer works at READ and blogs at nawang­pen­star.com

One of our most sig­nif­i­cant events this year is that of Bhutan’s ex­port­ing of eggs to In­dia. A few years ago, we were im­port­ing them – in truck­loads. This goes to show that we have the po­ten­tial to grow and progress as a coun­try, pro­vided we put in a lit­tle more ef­fort and work harder. Did you know, Bhutan to­day has 422,648 hens and pro­duces 251,678 eggs a day? In July 2016, Bhutan Agri­cul­ture and Food Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity (BAFRA) banned the im­port of chilies from In­dia rea­son­ing that the lab­o­ra­tory tests con­ducted con­firmed pres­ence of pes­ti­cides. And right there was our op­por­tu­nity to grow on our own. The news was like win­ning a lot­tery and it sure was a boon to many a Bhutanese chili grow­ers, as they now had ready mar­ket san com­pe­ti­tion from cheap chilies from across the bor­der. Then came the ‘off sea­son’. That is when the price of chilies un­rea­son­ably shot up as high as Nu. 300-400 per kg. It was un­rea­son­able and day­light rob­bery, many peo­ple protested. And then peo­ple took to the so­cial me­dia. News­pa­pers, ra­dio sta­tions, na­tional tele­vi­sions were filled with noth­ing but chilies. “Can chilies bring down a gov­ern­ment,” some­one posted on Face­book. And then the au­thor­i­ties had to look for op­tions in chilies from Kolkata, In­dia. And with that, we have lost our op­por­tu­nity. The ban was an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for our farm­ers to grow and grow more. BAFRA’s ban of chilies was our golden goose. But now we killed it, for good. At this rate, we can never be self-suf­fi­cient. We will al­ways need to im­port veg­eta­bles from In­dia and more so in winters. But Bhutan is not like In­dia. We have places that stretch from 100 me­ters and rise to above 5,000 me­ters above the sea level. And such dif­fer­ences in el­e­va­tion means we can grow veg­eta­bles through­out the year. Yes, even chilies can be grown all year around, in dif­fer­ent places – south, east, west and cen­tral. That’s the bless­ing we have in Bhutan. When it is the so-called ‘off- sea­son’ in the south, it would be the right sea­son for th­ese veg­eta­bles in cooler re­gions, and vice-versa. Who knows just like our egg-story, our chilies may find their ways to In­dia, too? But now our farm­ers would not grow chilies more than they can con­sume as Bhutanese mar­kets will be filled with cheaper op­tions. Where is the in­cen­tive to grow more? I hoped that the ban would trig­ger many good things in the coun­try. But it is a lost op­por­tu­nity now. Our greedy mid­dle­men man­aged to kill our golden goose. Th­ese greedy peo­ple de­serve all our praises! But again, how can we blame them? Come to think of it, do they con­trol the prices? It is the mar­ket forces. Higher the de­mand and lesser the sup­ply – per­fect com­bi­na­tion – for higher prices of goods and ser­vices. Sim­ple eco­nomics.

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