A COVID-19 Food Self Sufficiency Lesson

One major lesson from the start of COVID-19 in Bhutan from March and especially in the lockdown is that Bhutan can do a lot more to improve its food production, distribution and storage.

The Agriculture Minister in a refreshing stance has admitted to the failures in the Agricultural sector on the above fronts and this admission and realization that it needs to be fixed by the head of the ministry is a good place to start.

As some Dzongdas pointed out, there needs to be better coordination in terms of collecting the excess produce in one Dzongkhag and sending it to other places that need them.

The poor quality of our food transport and storage stood exposed when tons of sought after local chicken went bad and had to be thrown away or how vegetables spoilt while being transported.

The continuing shortage of tomatoes and onions should come as a reality check as we are yet to get even our basic vegetables items sorted. Contrary to early theories that these are not widely used in Bhutanese kitchens, the rush and desperation at the market place has shown that they are widely consumed.

While there was shortage on one hand there was an oversupply on the other end with diary products as only around half was what was supplied to Thimphu could be sold. This shows a clear lack of marketing and consumption data to gauge the real demand.

We were lucky in some aspects that the lockdown took place in summer when Bhutan still produces vegetables. One wonders what would have been our state if the lockdown had taken place in winter.

The government is forced to curtail the import of vegetables and other items due to the risk of transmission like in the MDP case in Phuentsholing, and so going ahead Bhutan has no choice but to ramp up its local production, distribution and storage capacity.

Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth

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