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Cold storage facilities worth Nu 94 M not in use in Sarpang & Wangdue

The cold storage facilities in Sarpang and Wangdue Phodrang built at a combined cost of over Nu 94 M are still not in use after they were opened to the public around five months ago. People point out the lack of awareness of the availability of the facilities. They also say the facilities were inaugurated when fruits and vegetables were mostly out of season. However, officials in both districts started reaching out to the people recently in preparation for the upcoming harvest season.

This is the integrated cold storage along the Gelephu–Sarpang highway at Samtenling Gewog. It is constructed at a cost of over Nu 38 M.

Though it is meant for farmers to preserve their surplus vegetables, fruits and livestock products during summer and supply to schools, institutions and the market during winter, it is empty as of now.

However, officials from the Food Corporation of Bhutan and the Regional Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives office in Gelephu think this will change.

They met members of farmer’s groups and cooperatives and local vegetable vendors to encourage them to make use of the facility.

“We received clients from FCB officials at Wangsisina in Thimphu who wanted to keep their apples in our facility if we give them a discount of 50 chhetrum but I didn’t accept it. Firstly, I have to facilitate the service to the people of Sarpang and if there are no users here, then we will allow the farmers of Tsirang and other neighbouring districts,” said Ugyen Choeda, regional director of FCB, Gelephu.

The farmers are now planning to use the facility for storing apples, potatoes and other farm produce this season.

“When the cold storage was opened, apple season was over and the potato season didn’t start. That way we couldn’t make use of the facility. However, starting this year, if the facility is affordable, we will make use of it all the time,” said Narayan Dhungyel, a member of Serzhong Sanam Detshen.

“We were not aware of the cold storage construction was completed. However, after attending the meeting today, we came to know that the facility is initiated for the people of Sarpang and especially for groups and cooperatives. Moreover, as the charges are lower for the groups and cooperatives, we are really happy about it,” said Tej Prasad Homagai, Sarpang Layer Cooperative.

“When the vegetable season starts, we can keep potatoes, apples and oranges in the cold storage,” said Sangay Leda, a vegetable vendor.

Currently, private businesses will be charged Nu 42 per square foot of space for using the facility. However, farmers’ groups and cooperatives can use the same space paying Nu 27.

Meanwhile, seven farmers’ groups and a vegetable retailer in Sarpang registered with the FCB to use the facility.

In Wangdue Phodrang, the facility is for the people of Gasa, Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang is also not in use. The FCB said they are carrying out some final finishing and handing-taking over works.

The Chief Executive officer of the corporation says an announcement will be made soon on the availability of facilities besides their awareness programmes.

Meanwhile, the cold storage in Trashgang is still under construction. The government included the construction of cold storage as one of the critical components of the Economic Contingency Plan 2020-2021 to ensure food security and achieve self-reliance.

The Agriculture and Livestock Ministry prioritised and initiated the construction of three multi-chambered cold stores at strategic locations in Sarpang, Trashigang and Wangdue Phodrang.

Karma Wangdi & Changa Dorji

Edited by Kipchu