As a result of the pandemic, the country’s economy shrank. Despite this, the primary sector, which includes agriculture, livestock, and forestry, increased at a rate of 4.57 percent in 2020, up more than 3 percent from 2019.
The report states that while the pandemic caused major disruptions around the world, a small country like ours actually saw opportunities in it, especially in the agriculture sector.
The sector received renewed attention. Import and export of agricultural goods were heavily limited due to strict surveillance and safety standards in place to control the spread of COVID-19.
“This required us to boost the domestic production so that our people had access to food. Through the Economic Contingency Plan which was focused on people centric interventions, we accelerated winter vegetable production, enterprise development, and youth engagement programmes,” the report stated.
Under this, MoAF focused to produce vegetables such as chilli, onion, tomato, and 14 signature vegetables.
The country was able to produce 6,115.24 MT of winter vegetables which accounts for approximately 56 percent of winter vegetable consumption.
The ministry also improved 326 commercial agriculture farms and extended technical support to eight new commercial farms.
Many youth groups also ventured into enterprise development works. As part of these interventions, 77 acres of land was brought under urban vegetable cultivation which benefitted 583 laid-off employees. Similarly, through Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd., the ministry developed 13,709.39 acres of land that benefited 4,275 households.
MoAF is working to provide technical and grant support amounting to a maximum of Nu 350,000 each to 200 youths through the Youth Employment and Rural Entrepreneurship project.
Achieving food and nutrition security has been the guiding policy of the agriculture sector. However, the country continues to import huge quantities of agricultural products.
His Majesty the King’s addresses to the nation on 12 September 2020 and the 77th Royal Bhutan Army recruits attestation in August this year underscored food security as one critical component of nation building.
Rice, the main staple of the Bhutanese people, is one of the top 10 imports. In 2021, from January to June, rice worth Nu 1.24 billion was imported from India.
However, remarkable progress has been made in achieving self-sufficiency in other products.
The ministry installed 765.6 KM of electric fencing covering 5,224 acres of land benefiting 3,200 households. Further, MoAF reclaimed 698 acres of fallow land.
As per the report, a main factor in country’s high import indices is also due to the lack of adequate storage and pack house facilities in the country.
Within this financial year, MoAF will be completing the construction of three integrated cold storages in Samtenling in Sarpang, Rinchengang in Wangduephodrang, and Gomchu in Trashigang.
In last fiscal year, the ministry constructed 34.52 Km of irrigation channels and 17.33 Km of micro-irrigation schemes covering an area of 4,921 acres and 512.25 acres respectively.
Meanwhile, according to the report, MoAF will emphasis on national crop prioritisation based on food security, nutrition, import substitution, and export potential for targeted production planning.
It will conduct a detailed review of fallow land status and plan immediate utilization, re-skill 1,800 youths on agribusiness, establish one window service for RNR enterprise development.