Post His Majesty The King’s 109th National Day address in Trongsa that emphasized on the agricultural sector, the Ministry of Agriculture and the government are coming up with new Agricultural programs and also enhancing its ongoing ones.
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said, “The Ministry of Agriculture is closely studying the National Day address and is using it to come up with concrete plans.”
The Prime Minister said that His Majesty’s speech is very inspirational and it is a timely reminder to the nation as to what is important.
“We keep saying balanced development is important but rural-urban migration is a problem and collectively we have done precious little,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen said this is why the government appreciating His Majesty’s address is focused on decentralization and rural infrastructure like blacktopped roads in Gewogs, Farm shops, power tillers etc.
The PM said that there are a lot of opportunities in the rural based agro sector but they only catch is that they must be capitalized on now or be lost.
Outlining one of the steps the PM said that the Nu 100,000 credit limit to farmers under the government’s REDCL credit scheme would now be increased.
Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that His Majesty The King has started an important land reform of User Right’s Certificate (URC) whereby government land can be granted to people for fixed purposes like Agriculture. Lyonpo said it is currently being piloted in Pemagatshel by the National Land Commission whereby 145 households have already benefitted with URC land granted for cultivation.
Parallel to this key reform, the ministry has done a survey of all educated youth who have stayed backed in the villages for more than a year. The minister said that such youth can be targeted for URC land supported in turn by the MoA through its Agriculture Research and Development centers located in the four regions of Wengkhar, Bhur, Samteling in Bajo and Yusipang.
The Financial Institutions Association of Bhutan head and BNB MD Kipchu Tshering said that if issues like lease of government land for commercial farming can be addressed then it would be helpful.
The MoA will also ensure that every Chiwog will have at least one farmer’s group.
Lyonpo said that state owner Farm Machinery Corporation is identifying large private fallow lands and in turn offering to lease them out to contract farmers who would be helped by the corporation to market their products.
Currently 12 Dzongkhags do not have cold storages and so the minister said 100 metric tonnes storage capacity cold storages would be built in all 20 Dzongkhags.
The gewog farm shops which until recently were being run by the Food Corporation of Bhutan will be handed over to the Dzongkhags as part of the Dzongkhag’s marketing efforts.
The minister said one of the bottlenecks is human-wildlife conflict and in addition to already ensuring at least one electric fencing in every Chiwog the ministry would further enhance its efforts on this front.
He said another bottleneck was labour shortage and so the MoA to tackle this has been and will enhance its supply of power tillers to mechanize farming.
Lyonpo said an early idea is to encourage people from the Dzongkhags to invest in youth agricultural groups and be shareholders.
On the food processing front he said the ministry has come up with a maize processing unit in Gyelpozhing, and recently the Salang was done by His Royal Highness The Gyaltshab for a fruit processing unit there too. He said another unit to make potato chips as part of an FDI was coming up there. The minister said that the ministry would be enhancing the food processing sector.
The Minister said that MoA would both upscale its current efforts and also come up with more detailed ideas and projects in the coming days.
The Royal Monetary Authority Governor Dasho Penjore said that it would be important to conduct a survey to find out what it would take to keep youth back in the village to take up commercial farming. He said such surveys would help in targeted interventions.