According to Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s (DNT) Manifesto, in 2016, agriculture contributed only 16.52 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and over 58 percent of the population depended on agriculture for livelihood, according to Labor Force Survey of Bhutan, 2015.
Given the nature of Bhutan’s topography characterized by steep terrains, only 7 per cent of the Bhutanese land is cultivable. Of that, only 2.9 per cent of the land is actually cultivated, indicating that four percent of the available cultivable land is left fallow, the manifesto says.
The manifesto also says shortage of labour, lack of adequate irrigation, particularly in winter months, pests and diseases, human wildlife conflict and lack of postproduction facilities are some of the challenges in agriculture sector.
However, ineffective agriculture marketing policies and systems continue to be the dominant factor in low agriculture production and rural income.
DNT to establish a network of agriculture marketing centers through outlets
DNT says it shall establish an effective food distribution system and support agriculture marketing by reviewing the responsibility of the Food Corporation of Bhutan and the Department of Agriculture and Marketing Services under Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
DNT will institutionalize a chain of agricultural marketing system across the country that will purchase farmers’ agricultural produce. The outlets will be wholesale shops to redistribute the farm produces to schools and colleges, other institutional bodies, and retail shops, including for export through value addition.
DNT will support with marketing of most essential commodities such as rice, maize, cash crops and vegetables that have the potential for market both within and outside the country.
DNT to establish cold storages and warehouses in strategic locations
DNT pledges that it shall establish cold storages and warehouses in strategic locations. It will enable farmers’ produces to be preserved for longer duration by establishing cold storages at strategic locations, which will serve as stores for distribution internally and also for export.
DNT build adequate warehouses at strategic locations like Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar and Gelephu to adequately store farm produces to enables their export. It will develop a modern auction yard with appropriate facilities to make it easier for both buyers and sellers.
DNT to make farming easier and cheaper by supporting farmers with essential facilities
To help farmers, it will provide subsidies for Supply of good quality seeds and fertilizers for increased productivity of essential crops like rice, potatoes, maize, cardamom, oranges, ginger, peanuts and vegetables.
It shall also provide subsidies to farmers to protect farms from wildlife depredation through electric fencing and other effective measures in addition to subsidies on farm mechanization.
DNT to remove tax for farmers on income generated from primary agricultural produce
It will cut red tape and enhance ease of doing agro-business and agricultural farming and will remove taxes on income generated from primary agriculture producers.
DNT to support employment in agriculture
DNT will support employment in agriculture, it will turn agriculture into an attractive sector for Bhutanese to invest and work in, through improved agro-business and processing technologies for agro and dairy products. Micro-credit loans will be made available for establishing small businesses at low interest rates and help in building of capacities of farmers’ by training them in specialized areas such as horticulture, potatoes and diary.
DNT to enhance agriculture productivity and reduce imports
DNT will enhance agriculture productivity and reduce imports by increasing the area under cultivation and devise strategies to lease fallow land to farmers, cooperatives and farming contractors. In addition, it will devise user rights to allow farmers to lease government land.
Also it will invest in science and technology to boost production levels and encourage and support double cropping, even triple, per year in all the possible areas of the country.
IT will also review and strengthen Farm Machinery Corporation limited and expand mass commercial farming on unused government land.
The corporation will work closely with farming cooperatives, unemployed youth and farmers in initiating contract farming activities. This project will also coordinate with farmers across the country and support them by providing training opportunities, enable field visits and provide hands on experiences. Through this project alone, we expect to generate 1,500 jobs.
DNT to ensure irrigation throughout the year
Where it is not possible to provide irrigation because of lack of water source, DNT will consider allowing conversion of chuzhing (wet land) to kamzhing (dry land).
DNT to provide crop insurance
Due to adverse climatic conditions such as windstorms, crops are highly vulnerable to destruction and farmers to heavy losses. Insurance schemes will be introduced for compensation, or in certain instances, will facilitate for appropriate compensation.