A farmers’ group, Tashi Phendey Detshen, had set up the doma processing unit in 2021 that was envisioned to absorb almost all areca nut produced in the district and also help generate employment for the local communities.
The dzongkhag administration had also helped the farmers in procuring the machinery and set-up the plant near Norbuling central school at Sansari.
The group had planned to produce muza and supari (dried and sweetened betel nut chunks) products and had also expected to take in over a ton of cardamom every month.
However, the group is failing to meet its objectives of establishing the unit as locals are reluctant to sell the nut to the unit. Most growers still preferred to sell it to neighboring Indian buyers despite getting the same price.
The chairperson of the group, Pema Tshechu, said the villagers are opting to sell their areca nuts to Assam traders despite them paying same rate. He said one reason could be that the doma cultivators must have already taken advance from their Indian counterpart and hence are compelled to sell to them.
Pema Tshechu said, “Tashi Phendey Detshen is trying to reduce the export while also substituting imported doma products that are expensive. Sadly, the group is not supported by the locals.”
He added that the farmer group has to continually pay taxes without any outcome after they set-up the dome processing unit,
However, the local areca nut have a different interpretation of their own.
Rinchen Tshomo from Chuzergang gewog said that none of the member from the Tashi Phendey Detshen approached to her. She added that none of the other doma growers in her villager had been approached by the group.
She said the villagers sell their produce in Beijni, Assam through Indian vendors at about Nu 4,200-5,000 per sack. The reason for choosing to sell to Indian buyers, according to Rinchen Tshomo, is that farmers need instant cash which Indian traders paid them. She also said that the group may also not be able to pay them at the same rate.
Another areca nut farmer, Rinzin Lhendrup, said that the group had never approached any of the villagers. He said that most doma growers sold it to Indian traders as it was convenient and received instant cash from them.
He added that villagers the growers even asks for advance payment from their Indian counterparts, especially summer during the paddy cultivation to pay charges for tractor and wages for laborers, which they readily agreed.
Leki Thamgyal also shared similar reasons that the group did not come to door-to-door to buy doma from the villagers. He runs a grocery shop in the village and keeps half of his doma harvest in shop and sold the other half to Indian buyers.
He added that the villagers are even skeptical of getting the same price if they sold it to the group.
Rinchen Yangzom, who is also an agent, also said that the unit may not be in position to pay the same price as Indian buyers.
Rinchen Dorji from Chaskar village, Chuzergang said that once he got a call from the chairperson from the group but later he did not confirm. So he sold his doma to Indian vendors.
He said that he had intended to sell to the doma processing unit but the price was only Nu 3,000 per sack. “Local doma growers will definitely sell to the group if they are paid the same amount or a little higher,” he said.
Chuzergang gup, Karma Tshering, said that besides the members from the unit not approaching the doma growers in the villagers, it seems that the unit is also not able to pay at par with Indian buyers.
The gup added that the group should approach the gewog administration so that they can intervene and encourage local growers to sell their produce to the processing unit.