In order to ensure sustainable socio-economic well being of the Bhutanese people through access to food and natural resources, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests has set four policy goals and objectives.
The enhancement of food and nutrition security is one among its objectives. The ministry is implementing about 16 programs to achieve food, nutrition security and commercialization of agriculture.
Minister of Agriculture, Yeshey Dorji, said that the commercialization of agriculture is one of the key targets to achieve food security, and therefore, the ministry has started to commercialize rice, maize and vegetable since 2011.
From 2011-2016, the government has spent Nu 7,534,437.50 to supply improved rice seeds to farmers in Sarpang, Samtse, Wangdue, Punakha and Samdrupjongkhar, which benefited about 18,067 households in these dzongkhags. Nu 14 million was also spent to establish three rice mill at Bajo, Phuentsholing and Chuzergang.
Lyonpo also said that the ministry has initiated the private sector participation in commercializing, like plantation of coffee and Mountain Hazelnut in some of the suitable places.
Improving maize production through supply of improved hybrid seeds to meet the demands of the farmers for local feed industries has been initiated.
For the commercialization of vegetables, since 2012, the government has provided 1,177 numbers of green houses, water saving irrigation systems, like sprinklers, drip irrigation hose pipes, besides seeds and training to farmers.
In doing so, the production has increased from 35,000 metric ton (MT) in 2012 to 59,000 MT in 2014 and vegetables export increased from 973 MT in 2011 to 4,676 MT in 2015, which saw an increase in income from vegetable export of Nu 16 million in 2011 to Nu 120 million in 2015.
Lyonpo said, “For the better results, we are adopting the value chain approach looking and focusing from production till the marketing and consumption.”
The ministry is also looking at selected commodities that have economic values, production potentials and marketability.
In the irrigation front, the ministry has planned for the construction or renovation of 108 irrigation schemes across the country, which assures 79,855 acres of land under irrigation and would cost Nu 2 billion.
Till now, 18 numbers of schemes covering 98.77 km of irrigation channels have been constructed or renovated bringing 7955.48 acres of land under irrigation and benefited 3,050 households.
In addition, 10 schemes are under process and paper work for 14 schemes are ready, of which 4 schemes are proposed under GAFSP and 11 other micro irrigation schemes are being renovated across the country.
In order to overcome the shortage of the farm laborers, for the equity and better penetration of farm machineries, the government has initiated the provision of free power tillers to the gewogs and establishment of hiring centers.
So far, 462 numbers of power tillers have been provided to the gewogs, trained 205 extension agents and 150 Gewog operators to operate power tillers.
The hiring centers provide farm machineries with operators and fuel at minimal fee of Nu 1,400 per day as against Nu 2,200 per day for private operators.
In curbing human-wildlife conflict, currently 1,253.26 Km of electric fencing covering 11,022.86 acres of agricultural land has been completed, which includes 6,090.63 acres of dry land and 4,932.19 acres of wetland benefitting 5,233 numbers of households.
Between 2015-2016, as a part of provision of the inputs 150 million worth seeds and seedlings were provided to the farmers, that is 730,673.56 kgs of seeds inclusive of vegetables, oil seeds, potato seeds and cereals seeds, in addition 84,094 numbers of temperate and sub-tropical fruits seedlings.
Marketing is considered crucial for the food security in the country, therefore the ministry has plans to establish one farm shop in each gewog, and currently 59 farm shops have been completed, 6 more farm shops are to be opened towards the end of June.
Recently, the ministry has started the collection of vegetables and collected 4,680 kgs of vegetables from Punakha and Wangdue. With its success, the government has a plan to start collection from other dzongkhags as well.
The recent test and analysis of 10 fresh fruits and vegetables from the Centenary Farmers’ Market, revealed the presence of some chemical in cauliflower and beans which exceeded the European Union Standards, this resulted in temporary and informal ban on the import of those commodities.
Ensuring production of food within the country, educating the public on food safety, building capacity to undertake food testing within the country, institutionalization import of fruits, vegetables and developing a national food safety standards are the ways which the ministry hopes to resolve the issues.