During the Question-Hour session held in the National Assembly yesterday, Member of Parliament (MP) from Khamed-Lunana, Pema Drukpa, asked the agriculture minister to update the House on the power tiller distribution and farm shops across the country and its benefit to the people.
In response to the question, Agriculture Minister, Yeshey Dorji, said that about 56.2 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture as the main source of livelihood, and considering its importance, the government has been making concerted efforts in supporting the sector in all the development plans.
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that despite many program interventions, the farming communities are constrained by the lack of access to quality and reliable farm inputs, poor infrastructure and market access for their farm produce, and acute shortage of farm labour.
Hence, he said that in order to address these issues, the ministry has established the farm shops , a semi business venture for greater social cause, which will be established in all gewogs in times to come.
The minister said that the three main function of the farm shop are the buy-back guarantee under which farmers are given guaranteed market outlet for their local produce, retail sale of farm inputs and farm machinery hiring services, and also sale of basic food and other essential items.
Further, he said that the farm shop will also serve as market outlets for all RNR produce, enhance access to RNR inputs and services including market information, and enhance access to basic amenities of local farming communities.
As of October 31, Lyonpo said that a total of 86 farm shops have been established and are functional across the country.
He said that the concept of the farm shop has been designed, solely taking consideration on its sustainability, whereby in the initial stage Food Corporation of Bhutan, with its experience, will kick start the venture.
Lyonpo said that in long run it will be handed over to those established and competent cooperatives and farmers’ group.
“As a first step, by 2017, we are targeting to handover some of the farm shops to the respective dzongkhags,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.
Coming to the power tiller distribution across the country, he said farmers stand to benefit from power tiller hiring system, which was started with a trail run for about three months at six eastern dzongkhags, with 70 power tillers which when reviewed found out that 687 acres were tilled benefiting almost 1,000 households.
According to Lyonpo, farm labour shortage is identified as one of the major impact in farming operations and agricultural development, and this has led to the decrease in the area of land under cultivation and food production consequently.
Therefore, the ministry has directly distributed 269 power tillers at gewog centers, as part of its strategy to increase farm productivity.
In addition, the agriculture minister said that 381 power tillers have been placed in four regional centers and 11 service centers across the country, to be hired to the farming communities.
The ministry has also come up with the power tiller hiring guidelines.
Lyonpo also informed the House that the ministry has been promoting and providing other farm machineries such as tractors, paddy/rice reapers, transplanting machines, water pumps, power paddy weeders, Bhutanese power threshers and mini combine harvester, apart from power tillers.
Lyonpo assured that the power tillers will be distributed in Lunana and other highlands before December 12 this year.