Following the finding of high pesticide content in imported vegetables, like beans, cauliflowers and chilies, the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) also conducted similar laboratory tests on vegetables grown and sold in Bhutan.
Regular surveillance of pesticides content on imported fruits and vegetables are still being done through test kits and laboratory testing by BAFRA.
During meet-the-press session yesterday, Agriculture Minister, Yeshey Dorji, said that the ministry has instructed BAFRA to conduct test on local vegetables to ensure all local vegetables are chemical free.
Lyonpo said that though local vegetables are not organic and not completely chemical free no harmful levels of chemical content was found during the testing process.
He ensured that local vegetables are grown naturally as farmers are not allowed to use heavy pesticides nut that they do use some other chemicals in limited quantities. He added that import of any pesticides is strictly monitored by BAFRA in all entry points. “When import of pesticides is restricted, farmers will have limited access to it,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.
Lyonpo said that Bhutanese farmers use insect repellent and Weedicide, during the time of pest outbreak, and for certain vegetables grown organically like asparagus, not even such insect repellents are being used. He said certain standards need to be met for organic farming in order to fetch higher prices.
Lyonpo said that apart from vegetables, both imported rice is also being tested to check for any chemical content. Of some 12 varieties of rice tested, all detected minimal chemical content which is below the Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for human consumption.
Lyonpo said that ban on some imported vegetables will lead to the hike in local vegetables price, but for a short time only.
He said the Department of Agriculture and Marketing Cooperatives (DAMC) will soon intervene in the coming days to ease the vegetable price hike and shortages in the market. Lyonpo said this is being done to help the consumers.
Further, Lyonpo said the ministry is working at an accelerated pace towards food self-sufficiency, with new programmes planned for agriculture development to bring significant progress in its various sectors.
He said that currently of the 12 months Bhutan through its vegetable programs can meet its vegetable demands for nine months and the ultimate aim is to push this to 12 months.
He said in winter the focus was in the southern region and warmer valleys along with providing green houses in colder places. In summer given the heavy rains in the south the more cooler temperate regions saw more vegetable production.
In order to boost home grown vegetables, agriculture ministry encourages farmers to form into groups and cooperatives which would help a great deal in terms of quality, grading and sorting.
Besides, plans are offing with the agriculture ministry to boost internal vegetables productions through provisions of major services and interventions.
These include linking vendors of Centenary farmers’ market (CFM) with local producers, up scaling productions and supplying vegetables from government farms.
Agriculture ministry is also providing support in terms of seeds and seedlings, irrigation facilities, transportation subsidy, marketing equipment, and minimum support price.