“We can produce our own vegetables!” said Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley last week to 92 vegetable vendors who gathered in the capital from all over Bhutan.
And that is not a tall-order from the nation’s premier, for he justified with conviction, stats and instances, that Bhutan can do it.
Lyonchhen said Bhutan has rich agro ecological zones rising from the hot and humid sub-tropical zone in south to the cold mountains of alpine zone in the north. These conditions, he said are favorable to produce summer vegetables in the dzongkhags of Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Gasa, Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Trongsa, Zhemgang, Bumthang, Monggar, Lhuentse, Trashigang, Trashiyantse, Pemagatsel, Dagana and parts of Tsirang .
While in winter, vegetables from Samtse, Sarpang, Samdrup Jongkhar and parts of Chukha, Dagana, Tsirang, Wangduephodrang and Punakha will be able to keep the market afloat.
Plans are also in-the-offing with the agriculture ministry to boost internal vegetables production through provisions of major services and interventions. These include linking vendors of Centenary farmers’ market (CFM) with local producers, upscaling productions and supplying vegetables from government farms.
The agriculture ministry would also provide support in terms of seeds and seedlings, irrigation facilities, transportation subsidy, marketing equipment, minimum support price etc. For these, a budget of Nu. 3.810 mn has been proposed.
The Lyonchhen said it is wrong to think that vegetables imported from the neighboring Indian states are cheap and affordable. The real profit of vegetable business is when we do an internal trade which helps our farmers.
“It is profitable both at present in future to buy vegetable worth of Nu. 15-20 from our own source than Nu. 10 worth from outside,” the Lyonchhen said. Such move he said will help keep the money within our country and in the long run help our own economy.
“Our civil servants, business communities, armed forces, monks, teachers and students, in fact every member of the society looks for cheaper goods,” which he said is not favorable for our own growth.
The Prime Minister stressed to the vendors that Bhutanese farmers are like our other hand and leg without which we cannot stand on our own feet. “It’s like amputating our own hand and feet to ignore them,” the Lyonchen said.
He reminded the gathering that we have all our roots back home in our villages and farmland and no matter who you are, you’re going to land up there one or other day.
Supporting what the Prime Minister said, Agriculture Minister Lyonpo (Dr.) Pema Gyamtsho said that we’re at the crossroads of economy. “If we want to mend it for better, it is now or never,” he said.
Tshering Norbu, a Nganglam based vegetable vendor submitted that such moves and plans by the government is very much in favor of the vegetable producers and vendors. “Although I had a big plan up my sleeves, I could not inch forward due to inaccessibility to the government support and lack of own capital money,” he said.
Another vendor from Bumthang Sangay Phuntsho said that except for few odd months in winter, the dzongkhag is almost self-sufficient in vegetables. “Ten years ago, Bumthang had been importing Indian vegetables. Now, with full support rendered by the government in terms of supply of seeds and provision of green house plastics, we at Bumthang do not import a single piece of potato in summer.”