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Bhutan government set to buy back unsold cardamom

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The Bhutanese government has announced that it would buy back the unsold stock from farmers across the country. KUENSEL

Bhutan government set to buy back unsold cardamom

KUENSEL/ANN: Just as farmers were anxiously waiting for the cardamom price to improve and its export hassles resolved, the government has announced that it would buy back the unsold stock from farmers across the country.

With cardamom-marketing season at its peak, farmers of Chudzom county, one of the highest cardamom-producing places in Sarpang is vigilant about the rise and fall of the price. The approximate price today in Gelephu is between 19,000 ngultrum ($267.60) and 20,000 ngultrum per sack containing 40kg, which is about 500 ngultrum per kg.

Most farmers in Chudzom have not sold their cash crop yet. It has been a month since harvest and farmers are waiting for the price to increase. One of the farmers waiting for the price hike is KB Tamang. He has about 280kg of cardamom.

He said last year he sold the cardamom late, sometime in January and fetched 31,000 ngultrum per sack. He is expecting the same this year and has not sold the harvest.

“Cardamom price keeps fluctuating. While we wait we might fetch a lower price sometimes,” he said.

On the government’s announcement of buying back unsold stock from farmers at 550 ngultrum per kg, KB Tamang said that it’s a fair price in comparison to the market price from agents in Gelephu.

As soon as the gewog (village block) agriculture extension officers conveyed the message to farmers on the government’s announcement, farmers in Chudzom got together to discuss, KB Tamang said.

“We feel that it’s a great initiative from the government,” he said. “It the highest price we look forward to.”

Four criteria

The department of agriculture issued a notification on December 10 instructing dzongdags (district governors) to instruct agriculture officers to register farmers willing to sell their unsold stock.

According to the notification, the government will buy back the unsold stock for 550 ngultrum per kg. “In this regard, we are instructed to reconfirm the quantity of cardamom that the farmers are willing to sell to the government,” the notification states.

However, the government has four particular criteria that farmers need to meet. The cardamom should be new harvest – not older than three months – and should be true type or one variety. The other two criteria include properly dried product and should not be adulterated – not mixed stock or mixed with old stock.

Chudzom agriculture extension officer LB Chhetri said the message has been conveyed to farmers. They have been informed that it is not a forced implementation but an initiative to help farmers have a proper market for their produce. “It is the stock they are not able to sell in open that they can sell to the government,” he said.

Another farmer Dawa Tshering, 65, said fulfilling the criteria is not an issue. Not being able to sell cardamom is also not an issue but fetching a good price is a concern.

“There isn’t an issue of not being able to sell cardamom, we expect better price whoever buys it,” he said.

Dawa Tshering has harvested about three sacks this year. He harvested the same last year and sold it for 26,000 ngultrum per sack in February.

According to the notification, the districts need to submit the list of farmers willing to sell their produce to the government latest by 9am of December 14. “District governors may note that we’ve to submit the final list along with budget estimate to the government on December 15,” the notification states.

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