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Farm shop business drains millions

By Sonam Choki

In an unsavory development in the ongoing parliament, t he Agriculture and Forests Minister Yeshey Penjor revealed that the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) had incurred losses of more than Nu 100 M from farm shops across the country in the last four years.

While presenting the Review Report on Farm Shops at the National Assembly, the agriculture minister said that from 2016 to 2020, the FCBL has suffered a loss of almost Nu 104 M from various farm shops across the country.

He said in 2017 FCBL incurred a loss of Nu 15 M while there was a Nu 29 M loss in 2018 and 31M in 2019. Yet in 2020 again the FCBL repeatedly incurred a loss of more than Nu 28 M taking the total, in the last four years, to a staggering Nu 104 M.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor attributed the recurring losses to poor management of farm shops as one of the prime reasons behind the loss.

Likewise, the farm shops were almost like grocery shops and made to compete with other businesses. Moreover, farm shop operators were provided salaries and functioned similarly to a civil servant without much worries and sales incentives were also provided without any viable returns to sell their products.

However, Lyonpo informed the House that the ministry is now planning to upgrade farm shops for better performance and said the ministry is planning to make few changes to the farm shops project.

โ€œFarm shops will function as community service shops whereby the shops will not only sell agricultural products but all basic and essential goods will be made available. It will also serve as a centre which will procure all agricultural and livestock products from farmers and help them with marketing,โ€ Lyonpo Yeshey said.

The members were also informed that to improve the performance of the Farm Shops, the Farm Shops will have to be either operated under the concerned Gewog Administration or DAMC.

Further, the agriculture minister also highlighted the need to look into the employment of 136 youth operating the Farm Shops as permanent employees or on contract. He informed the House that the improvement plans for the Farm Shops will only be implemented after the global pandemic situation improves.

As of today, a total of 51 farm shops have been shut down and few farm shops have been handed over to youth to function as a franchise of a total of over 170 farm shops in the country. Only 109 farm shops are operational as of today.

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