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Booming butter shop sales mirror region’s economy

Palden Nyima and Phuntsog Tashi in Lhasa
Updated: Jul 27,2015 7:41 AM     China Daily

The Tibet autonomous region showed overall good economic development in the first half of the year despite the deadly earthquake on April 25 that ravaged Nepal and the Tibet-Nepal border area, officials said.

A regional economic conference reported the conclusion on July 20.

This economic progress is evident on the streets of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, where many shops sell butter and dairy products. The owners of the shops are usually Tibetans from Gansu and Qinghai provinces.

Tibetans from Gansu, most of Qinghai, and Sichuan’s Aba Tibetan autonomous prefecture are called Amdowa in Tibetan. Most areas in which Amdowa live are grasslands where nomads herd animals such as yaks, sheep and horses, producing a bounty in butter and dairy products.

The butter shop of three Amdowa sisters is directly opposite the Mani Lhakhang Temple, in the eastern part of the circular route around the Potala Palace. The sisters are from Qinghai’s eastern Palung county.

“With the big improvement in people’s livelihoods, most Tibetan people choose to buy goods and expensive butter,” said Dekyi Drolma, the oldest sister.

Dekyi Drolma made her first pilgrimage to Lhasa 15 years ago. She discovered a lot of butter was used in Lhasa as local Tibetans drink butter tea every day.

She decided to stay in Lhasa and opened a butter shop with her sisters the same year, selling butter from Sichuan’s Dzoge county.

“Ten years ago, it took six to seven days to transport the butter from Dzoge to Lhasa by truck, but the journey has been reduced to four to five days with transportation improvements,” the 34-year-old said.

Ten years ago, when their butter shop opened, their business was small because many people could not spend much on butter, said the middle sister, Jamyang Tso.

But now, the sisters’ business is booming. They sell an average of 150 kg of butter a day and work more than 12 hours daily. Their shop has become the top-selling butter retail outlet in Lhasa.

With big demand for butter in their shop, more than 300 nomadic families in Sichuan’s Dzoge county supply them the butter every month.

At the conference, Losang Gyaltsan, the chairman of the Tibet autonomous region, said, “The regional GDP in the first half the year rose by 11.3 percent, 1.3 percent higher than the first quarter, an increase of 0.6 percent year-on-year, and 4.3 percent higher than the national average level.”

The income of urban residents rose by 9 percent and that of rural residents by 13 percent, he said.

After the earthquake in April, main road traffic between China and Nepal was blocked, Sino-Nepalese trade was mostly suspended in the region, and foreign trade fell dramatically. The earthquake caused direct economic losses in the region of more than 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), according to the conference.

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