Farmers assigned venues for selling vegetables

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The city authorities have decided to organize the annual Altan Namar (Golden Autumn) expos in 24 locations after farmers repeatedly requested permission to do so since late July.

Farmers usually start moving to Ulaanbaatar in late July to sell their harvest. The increased supply of vegetables tends to deflate prices. For example, cucumber is sold for 6,000 MNT per kilogram on average in stores but farmers sell it for around 3,000 MNT, increasing public access to healthy and fresh food supply. Compared to imported vegetables, locally-farmed vegetables cost up to 30 percent less.

However, farmers couldn’t sell their goods until last weekend as the police stopped them for the COVID-19 protocol breach. The police stopped any attempts of farmers to sell their vegetables across Ulaanbaatar as part of COVID-19 prevention measures prohibiting gatherings and trade expos.

“I grow potatoes out in the countryside with my family. Like in previous years, I came to Ulaanbaatar to sell our produce and earn income for our family, but the police blocked all cars and people from approaching my truck. They shooed me away, took photos of vehicles approaching, threatening to fine them,” a farmer said a day before the city authority authorized Altan Namar. “We’re trying to sell our vegetables for much more affordable prices even though it comes nowhere near the amount of effort we put into growing them. Yet, the police are hindering us.”

Unable to earn income, farmers made several requests to the city authority to permit them to organize expos like in previous years. A month later, the Ulaanbaatar general manager allowed the organization of vegetable expos. This is said to have caused them significant delays and losses, including loss incurred from spoiling of vegetables.

Associations and organizations such as Mongol Nogoo Project stressed the need for the authorities to better coordinate farmers, assign them venues for selling their harvest every fall, and support local farmers. They added that providing the necessary conditions would allow residents to get fresh vegetables for affordable prices, ensure farmers have income, and improve the economy as a whole.

As of August 15, farmers had started selling their crops in 15 of the locations. Specifically five areas in Sukhbaatar District, three in Bayanzurkh District, one in Baganuur District, and two each in Bayangol, Khan-Uul and Chingeltei districts. Reportedly, around 170 farmers will be allocated an area of 16 square meters to sell vegetables. Farmers are advised to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines.

Nationwide, there are 16,000 farmers in Mongolia and another 45,000 individuals grow vegetables at home, according to the National Statistics Office. In 2020, local farmers cultivated potato in 17,000 hectares and vegetables in 9,000 hectares of land. Thanks to increased precipitation and good summer conditions, farmers farmed potato in 19,000 hectares (up by 2,000 hectares) and vegetables in 9,400 hectares (up by 400 hectares), according to officials.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan