The Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) is set to establish five ‘One District Three Product’ (ODTP) projects this year, as declared in its 29th annual general meeting held yesterday.
The Deputy Secretary General, BCCI, Chandra B. Chhetri, said ODTP is a way forward on enhancing rural-urban interconnectedness and livelihood with a start of three products in each district. Each regional office of BCCI is to implement at least one project in their respective region this year.
Chandra said ODTP projects are designed with sustainable economic development in focus, especially in the rural farmlands. “A win-win foundation for the producers, farmers and enterprises,” stated BCCI. It also helps in diversifying the productive base within the economy, thereby, helping to promote export, substitute import, generate employment, and to enhance rural income and livelihood.
The Deputy Secretary General, BCCI, added that three ODTP pilot projects were started in 2014; kiwifruit cultivation, Kiwifruit Demonstration Farms (KFDF), in Wangkha and Chasilakha, Chukha, medicinal herbs project in Bumthang, and cold-water fishery (trout) farming in Haa.
As per BCCI, business proposals for finances have been prepared for two other projects; crap fish culture in Sergithang, Tsirang, and promotion of Haa as an attractive tourist destination, with funds from the Business Opportunity and Information Centre (BoiC).
Many concerns on the implementation of the pilot projects, faced by BCCI and the project takers, were discussed in the meeting, like the conflict in policy anomalies and lengthy processes involved in obtaining clearances, business registration, discouraging proponents, and program champions.
Inadequate finances was seen as a critical impediment, BCCI points out, as agriculture finance is limited, and the capacity to fulfill the financing norms is weak among the farmers. Another problem pointed out was the cumbersome procedures and restrictive laws on land-use, and therefore, limiting the lease land holdings among project takers.
BCCI also said labour and immigration issues present a hurdle
to the success of the project, as the commercialization of agriculture requires workforce for plantation, care, management to harvest and post harvest management. BCCI also pointed out that a lack of ODTP fund would limit its intervention and facilitation capacity.
In line with the national policy of nutrition and food security, BCCI plans to enhance the dairy production in Chukha and Samtse so that the requirement for dairy and milk can be met internally, instead of importing huge quantities of milk and dairy products from India.
There are also plans to cultivate off season vegetables in eastern Bhutan for export to India and Bangladesh. Therefore, BCCI has started pilot projects for the cultivation of watermelon and banana plants in Mongar, and establishment plant nurseries in Wangduephodrang.
BCCI is to undertake a market study to determine the quantity required, supply timing, and product specification. The study will also look into the possibilities for the youth in taking up vegetable production work at a commercial scale, or to become marketing agents, or service providers in supplying inputs, packaging materials, transport process, and therefore, boosting the country’s economic growth.
According to BCCI, kiwi fruit cultivation gives high economic returns to farmers as a kilogram (kg) of kiwi fruit fetches Nu 500 to Nu 600 per kg. Each kiwi vine can yield around 40 kgs to 60 kgs of fruits, or 25 tonnes per hectare. There is also a large scope for value addition, such as making kiwi juice, cream, kiwi hair products, and kiwi pulp supply to agro processing units.
BCCI will establish an ODTP secretariat in Thimphu, to facilitate, coordinate, and oversee the activities and the implementation framework. As part of its services, BCCI helps to prepare ODTP project reports, undertaking market studies, providing required training services and technical expertise with support from BCCI’s network with agencies abroad.
BCCI aids in facilitating and guiding business start-ups, provides business advisory services for business development, and helps to fast track the land lease approval, licensing, clearances, and garners finance through financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, and program support from donors and grants.