Empowering milk cooperatives in Bhutan

Goenpa, a remote village in Ngatshang Gewog, Monggar, has found a reliable market for its milk at Koufuku International’s dairy processing plant in Chenary, Trashigang. Although the farmers benefit from this convenient arrangement, they believe that revising the current milk prices is essential due to the increasing cost of animal feed.

The farmers in Goenpa primarily rely on Jersey cows as their main source of income. They are proud members of Yadi Gonor Detshen, a dairy farmers’ group consisting of approximately 80 individuals. By selling their milk to the dairy company, they no longer need to worry about finding a market for their dairy products.

Dorji, the chairman of Yadi Gonor Detshen, is one of the many beneficiaries of the dairy processing plant. Every day, the 56-year-old milks his cow and brings it to the milk collection shelter where other members also gather, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the collection van.

Once the milk is collected, it is transported to the Yadi milk collection center and promptly chilled in a machine to prevent spoilage before being sent to the processing plant.

With a monthly milk production of approximately 300 liters, Dorji earns over Nu 10,000, which he utilizes to purchase household essentials.

“When we sell our milk to the company, it benefits all of us by reducing our workload. If we were to produce cheese and butter, it would require additional labor. Sometimes, we encounter difficulties in finding a market for these products,” explained Dorji.

Other members of Yadi Gonor Detshen share similar sentiments regarding the benefits of selling their milk to the dairy processing plant.

“I believe taking our milk to the processing plant in Chenary is a better option. If we keep the milk with us, we won’t earn any cash. It has benefited us immensely,” expressed Zangmo, a member of the cooperative.

Kinzang Choden, another member, stated, “I solely depend on cattle. By selling 10 to 11 liters of milk per day, I am able to earn Nu 14,000 to Nu 15,000 per month. Roughly 50 percent of the farmers in our community rely on cattle. Without cows, we would have nothing to sustain our livelihoods. Additionally, we use cow dung as manure in our fields.”

The dairy group currently sells around 275 liters of milk every day. However, they believe it would be more advantageous if Koufuku increased the milk prices, taking into account the rising costs of animal feed.

“We have been requesting officials to increase the price of milk, but they neither raise nor lower it. These days, even a bottle of water costs Nu 25, and when they pay us Nu 37 per liter of milk, we suffer losses. Moreover, a bag of cattle feed now costs about Nu 2,000. Other members have urged me to communicate with the officials to raise the milk prices,” expressed Dorji.

On the other hand, the officiating chief executive officer of Koufuku International Limited stated that they increase the milk prices by one ngultrum every year, regardless of whether the company incurs losses or gains profits, as agreed upon.

He further mentioned that the company could raise the milk prices if the farmers increase their production volume or bear the transportation costs to the chilling center of the processing unit.

Presently, the company collects milk directly from the farmers’ doorsteps, incurring transportation costs amounting to Nu 350,000.

The dairy processing plant not only benefits the dairy group in Ngatsang Gewog but also over 140 households in Balam and Chaskhar Gewogs.

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