A few weeks ago, the Government of India (GoI) decided to allow the import of seven vegetables including cabbage from Bhutan.
There was an over supply of cabbages last year, and the government bore Nu 24 million in losses when buying back cabbages from the farmers. This year too, the government is facing the same issue.
According to the Agriculture Minister, Yeshey Penjor, the excess cabbages are bought and then processed into powder at the National Post Harvest Center (NPHC). The damaged cabbages are thrown away.
The Agriculture Minister said that the government has suffered a significant loss in terms of buying the cabbages.
“We have stopped distributing cabbage seeds last year, but farmers still want them since cabbage is so easy to harvest. In reality, cabbage does not command a high price, is readily perishable, and offers few health benefits. As a result, we must discourage (cabbage farming),” the Agriculture Minister said.
NPHC found that the best way to preserve cabbage is to dry it and make it into a powder.
“The problem is that if we dry it as a leaf, we’ll have to soak it in warm water for 24 hours to get it back to the same leaf when we consume, which doesn’t make sense. As a result, it’s preferable to turn it into powder, and give it to schools, such that it can be eaten as a soup and used as an ingredient in curries. Also, for momo making, there is no need to slice the cabbage because the powder can be used instead,’ Lyonpo said.
Meanwhile, the ministry took up to a year to procure six vegetable dryer machines, which are currently stuck in Jaigoan, India, which adds to the cost.
“At the very least, if we can get those six machines to Paro, we’ll be able to address the cabbage and chilli dilemma,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo said there is a need to raise awareness on what is good and bad in vegetable farming.
“The marketing process has been entirely informal, and in order to codify it, we will need to invest significantly in human resources and technological capacity. It is not something that can be accomplished in two years, but we must begin today, and COVID-19 has taught us a valuable lesson,” Lyonpo added.
He said that the country is overly reliant on informal trade, which has proven to be a major blunder, which has to be reversed.
“In addition, we have focused our market on subsistence farming rather than commercial farming. Also, rather then adding value to the produce, we send it straight from the farms to the auction yards,” Lyonpo added.
Furthermore, India has rejected ginger from Bhutan, as there is no permit to export ginger to India.