The government will promote spring paddy since it means rice can cultivated thrice in 15 months, the agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, said last week at the monthly meet the press session in the capital.
“This is possible in southern parts of Bhutan and we are hoping for 85 to 90 percent of self sufficiency in rice production if not 100 percent,” Lyonpo said.
He said the government has invested in irrigation, electric fencing, new hybrid seeds, research and technology. The government has also made changes in the organisation, promoted farm mechanisation and are coming up with labour saving devices.
“With those in place, we are expecting even the crop contribution to GDP for 2017 would be higher,” the minister said.
Lyonpo also said that although the initiative of spring rice cultivation was initiated a long time ago it was done on a very small scale. However, from the beginning of 2017, it took on a commercial scale in Chhuzangang and Gelephu in Sarpang district, Yoeseltse in Samtse district and Khamaythang in Samdrupjongkhar district.
The minister said the government had initially identified 800 acres for spring paddy cultivation during their consultation meeting but the Farm Machinery Corporation Limited (FMCL) was able to take up only 533 acres.
Gelephu took up 136 acres, Chhuzangang 185 acres, Yoeseltse 118 acres and Khamethang 94 acres. “From the 533 acres, the yield in the first year was 77,128 kgs,” he said.
Lyonpo said there were challenges faced such as insufficient irrigation water supply when maximum water was required for better development and growth of grains. “This was due to major renovation activities being carried out with the irrigation channel and the heavy downpour washing away the irrigation source,” the minister explained.
He also said that harvesting commercial spring paddy coincided with the peak rainy season making it difficult for the development of the combine harvester and other machineries at site.
He also emphasised on labour recruitment during harvesting season as it coincided with normal paddy cultivation. “The inexperienced supervisor at the site faced difficulty in managing and coordinating systematically for the large area allocated for every individual,” he said.
The weed infestation was another problem faced at all sites, which resulted in stunted growth of the paddy. “This is because no chemicals and acids were used to suppress weed growth which was given favorable conditions to compete with the paddy,” lyonpo said.
With all the challenges confronted by implementers, lyonpo said they will see what changes were needed for better results in the coming year.