Bhutan on the cusp of achieving milk and dairy product self-sufficiency

When it comes to achieving self-sufficiency in milk and dairy products, Bhutan is headed in the right way. In fact, the Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests states that self-sufficiency in milk and dairy products has almost been achieved.

The 2012 report on milk sufficiency in the country states it has achieved about 90% sufficiency. Today, the internal production meets little less than the domestic demands for dairy products, like milk. Further, the dairy development has been up-scaled to promote semi-commercial dairy enterprises.

However, going by the import figures, milk and other milk products are the highest imported food items in the country. In 2013 alone, Bhutan has imported dairy products worth INR 669.8mn. The agriculture ministry’s primary focus is to reduce or stop food imports, especially milk and milk products.

Therefore, the ministry is slowly looking towards substituting the import with domestic products. Going by the current production of the diary milk and dairy products, Bhutan produce enough for the population.      According to the Agriculture Minister, Yeshey Dorji, the Department of Livestock has been concentrating on going self-sufficient in dairy products. Lyonpo said farmers around the country who rear livestock have played a crucial role in the industrial production of dairy products. He said this has gone well with the government’s effort of improving cow breeds and other interventions, such as farmers’ cooperatives and groups.

Group formation is also deemed as an integral component of effective production and management of dairy and dairy products. “Besides, it helps to boost farmer’s income,” said Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji.

Meanwhile, a livestock official, Neten, said that the ministry will gradually do away with the import of some dairy products. He said, as of now, the consumption trend has been inconsistent to fully determine if Bhutan is self-sufficient in dairy and dairy products. However, he said the burgeoning numbers of dairy groups and cooperatives in the country has immensely helped take the dairy sector to next level.

As per livestock statistics report 2013, there are more than 112 dairy farmers’ groups across the                country and more than 45 milk collection centers as of September 2011. Since the groups concentrate mainly on dairy and dairy products, the arrangement for cattle sourcing has been done with the help of livestock sector in their respective dzongkhags.

During the initial stage of the group formation, the farmers collected about only 90 liters of milk on a daily basis. The production has now boosted up to around 200 liters per day. However, according to the farmers, production is one thing but finding a market is quite another. “We face a tough time selling it in Thimphu as well as in Paro,” an executive member of a dairy cooperative said.

As per the 2012 livestock statistics report, the country produces domestic milk and milk products worth about Nu 1816.66mn. The figure excludes the money earned from the sale of other minor milk products, like Swiss cheese, yoghurt, fermented cheese (yetpa), ice cream, paneer, etc.

In efforts to achieve 100% self-sufficiency and replace import of dairy and dairy products, good dairy cow breeds with 30% subsidy are distributed to farmers. In addition, Lyonchen Tshering Tobgay has also sought Amul’s expertise to source 2,000 cows from India to Bhutan.

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