In a move to revamp the buyback scheme, and to improve and strengthen the agricultural marketing system, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MOAF) plans to buyback only the mandatory products which the ministry will identify and declare to the farmers, in order to overhaul the buyback scheme.
Unlike the previous buyback system, where the government bought all produce from farmers having difficulties selling, the revamped buyback system will only buy back the mandatory produce on the list. As for the other produce that are not on the list, which the farmers farm on their own, the buyback scheme will absorb them in a small emergency measure. This way, the farmers are motivated to cultivate all of the required crops, and the government does not lose money.
According to the Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, the produce the ministry identifies will fetch more price than the market price, and for that, the government will set up an assured market.
Lyonpo said that the major goal of the marketing strategy will be to provide farmers with market assurance, and one way to do so will be through the buyback scheme.
“The government will get the products directly from the source, clean, grade, and package it, and then sell it. As a result, the farmers will receive a fair price, and the government will transport and sell the fresh produce at a fair price. And the government will not lose money, and farmers will be motivated to grow more the next year. Thus, the buyback system must be changed and applied to the identified products,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo said that the present buyback system is an emergency remedy, when farmers are unable to sell their products, the government buys it back, even if it is already in the damaged stage.
“The government is also not able to sell or export the damaged produce. Furthermore, the farmers do not benefit, and the government suffers a loss. What we are contemplating now is to set aside a tiny percentage of that emergency rescue measure fund for items that farmers produce on their own initiative. The new buyback system will not accept all items. Instead, we will focus on those that have nutritional value, are in season, and have export potential. We will publish a list of the produce that will be purchased back. In addition, the government will set the price,” Lyonpo said.
The government also plans to establish more value-added processing industries. Farmers can also sell their farm produce to processing companies.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister said that to address the issue, the government has borne a loss of Nu 2.7 million while buying cabbages from the farmers last year, and the number has doubled this year.
“During last year’s national lockdown, we had no choice but to carry out the buyback policy. We had no choice but to purchase the cabbages because there was no market and they were getting damaged and rotten. And to carry out the policy, we provided FCBL with overdraft facilities through banks, with the government bearing the interest,” the Agriculture Minister said, adding that while they couldn’t export the cabbages, it did not go to waste, as cabbages were donated to monasteries, quarantine centers, and COVID-19 frontline workers.
Lyonpo added that the farmers are now discouraged from growing cabbage.
“We lost money while buying cabbage, both last year and this year. So now we know that it doesn’t fetch good price, and also does not have health benefits. So there is no need to repeat the same thing again next season, instead we should work on the identified commodities which the ministry will announce,” Lyonpo added.
The buyback scheme was established to provide a stable market for agricultural commodities, ensuring that farmers do not suffer a total loss, and that they remain motivated to farm in the future.