Many challenges wait to be addressed if our locally produced products are to meet international market standard
Due to the lack of information on local food products, many food consumers are complaining about these food products.
They say they have had purchased food items with valid dates, only to find out later that the food is already spoiled with molds and bad odor.
They also suspect that the dates stamped on the food package are being played around by the shopkeepers who choose to sell the products even after the stipulated shelf life of the product.
Till date, while Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) had certified a total of 13 local products for international market since 2015, an array of small scale or home made products are still seen on the shelves of many shops in the country.
Dawa Dorji, a shopkeeper in Changzamtog, said this may be happening because many people come with their products for sale to their shops and they do not verify the products.
He added that however customers do come to them and opt for labeled and certified products than the locally made products.
Another shopkeeper in Mothithang, JamyangChoden said local products get a fewer sales than other imported products and at the end they have to return the products to their owners.
A cake lover consumer, TashiTobgay, said local cakes are good when they are fresh, but a day or more they get spoiled. He therefore prefers the cakes from the Indian based cake company – Britannia- as they are branded, well labeled and most importantly ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certified and safe too.
KenchoTobgay, a customer at the Centenary Farmers’ Market, said it’s very difficult to trust the locally produced products as they have no proper food labeling, they are neither certified nor have details of products used to make the product.
“Food producers need to provide proper food labeling with dates that meet health standards, and educate both consumers and shopkeepers on food quality and safety by the concerned agencies, whereby no sellers can play with the dates or products lifeline,” he added.
Talking to Business Bhutan, BAFRA’s Director General NamgayWangchuk said that it’s very difficult to monitor all the locally produced products.
“Yet we check frequently and most importantly we create awareness and provide training. To certify local product is easy but meeting the standard of international market is difficult, which will cost more,” he said.
According to an official from the Department of Cottage and Small Industry under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, local products lack sanitization, certification and standardization compared to imported products.
The official added that local product manufacturers lack skilled manpower to add value to the products and also lack marketing skills.
And official from the Consumer Protection office said local products have poor packaging, branding, taste, and diversify in the market from other products.
He added it’s difficult to set the standard with imported products.
Similarly, Senior Regulation Quarantine officer Kubir N Bhattarai said our products lack labeling and certification to go beyond the boundary but also to capture the market against imported goods.
“There is also the problem of a proper hygienic work place,” he said.
He added it’s very difficult to trace the owner and neither we can go and check each and every household, but it’s a share responsibility for the individual to come and register with them.
Tshering from Thimphu