English | Dzongkha Saturday, August 18, 2018

Briquettes– supply falls short of demand

Jan 19, 2011

When the first briquette factory was opened in Thimphu, it was seen as an ideal solution to Thimphu’s growing firewood needs, especially during the winter.

Briquettes are compact sawdust logs. Today, they are in high demand. It is cheaper. It is clean. It lights easily. And what more, it uses sawdust which is otherwise dumped in rivers or elsewhere, polluting the environment.

There is only one problem. The only briquette factory in Thimphu cannot meet the growing demand.

Located at Ramtokto, a few kilometers from Thimphu on the way to Paro, the briquette factory produces 1500 kilograms of briquettes every day. It has the capacity to produce 3000 kilograms.

According to Dhurba Gurung, the production in-charge, “the production has been hampered by labour shortage and the quality of sawdust.”

The factory has eight labourers who are paid a monthly lump sum wage of Nu. 3500. To operate at full capacity, the factory will require 16 labourers. “Many of the labourers have left because of the low wage,” said Dhurba Gurung.

It also must have good quality sawdust. The factory gets the sawdust from sawmills in Thimphu and Paro. Going any further is not feasible because of the transportation cost.

The briquettes are sold in sacks. Each sack weighs 30 kilograms and costs Nu. 113.5. In a day, the factory produces about 50 sacks. But every morning 50 to 60 customers come to the factory to buy the briquettes. Some of them come as early as 7am in the morning, waiting in the freezing cold for good two hours, to make sure that they get to go back home with a sack or two of briquettes.

The factory starts selling the briquettes they have produced the previous day at 9am in the morning on first come first serve basis. The late comers go back home empty handed. By 9.30am, every sack has been sold out.

To distribute the much sought after briquettes equally, each customer gets only two bags. Every morning, there is a scramble among the customers, at times followed by exchange of hot words. Despite that, many go back home without a single sack, to come back the next morning.

Depak Rai, a Thimphu resident, “has been coming here from last week. I have come here so many times but I didn’t even get a single bag.”           

The growing demand has been attributed to the increasing cost of firewood which is in the first place very difficult to get.

The factory is run by the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL). An official from NRDCL said they have recently raised the salary of the labourers working in the factory to increase production. The corporation is also looking at the possibility of collecting sawdust from other places.

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