Mustard plantations to address country’s cooking oil self-sufficiency

The organic oil production shall begin in Gasa

Starting next year, with the increase in the production of organic mustard oil produced by few villages in Gasa, one of the least developed districts in the country, organic oil would be introduced in the local market. The produce for this year would be used for home consumption.

The production of local and organic mustard production program (MPP) was initiated by Research Development Centre (RDC), Bajo in collaboration with National Organic Program (NOP), Semtokha and the Dzongkhag Extension Office.

According to the RDC report, the production of mustard in the country is known to be declining over the years as the practice of growing mustard crop discontinued after industrial cooking oil flooded the market. “Cheap and readily available cooking oil in the market discouraged the farmers, killing such a unique tradition,” it stated.

Lately, Bhutan has proved to have the potential in achieving cooking oil self-sufficiency, especially mustard oil, without having to displace other crops. The decline in the production of mustard oil, as per the report, is due to the less priority received by the crop as compared to other produce.

In addition, the production of mustard oil entails much labour in the process of growing and extracting oil, which is why farmers choose to buy readily available cooking oil from the market. This has hindered the initiatives of Bhutan going self-sufficient in cooking oil to some extent.

Further, the report stated that the Indian Rupee (INR) crunch in country has had a direct bearing on the import of cooking oil,

and therefore, the agriculture sector has come up with a mission in attaining self-sufficiency in food production. The report also stated that inflation in the cost of cooking oil, and suitable climatic conditions for mustard production in Gasa could revive the dying out practice of growing mustard by the local farmers.

The report stated that as of now the mustard production program was implemented at Yemina, Paniko, Khailo and Damji of Khamae Gewog with about 65 households growing mustard in 30 acres of wetland.

As part of the organic program about 132 kilograms of mustard seeds was supplied locally from Khailo village and distributed to farmers while constant monitoring for pest and diseases are being carried out by the MPP.

The report also stated that the organic mustard production program is not only successful but served as a steady flow of income to the beneficiaries including the farmers. However, this is happening despite numerous challenges encountered by farmers, such as lack of oil processing facilities for the communities. Farmers need to transport their raw produce to the neighboring dzongkhag, Punakha for oil extraction, which involves cost implication.

Meanwhile, with financial support from NOP, an oil expeller machine has been provided and is expected to ease cost implications for the farmers. The expeller, once operational in Khailo village, would benefit all the villages that produce mustard.

The report also stated that not much of investment is needed for the venture since majority of the household possess the indigenous traditional equipment to ooze out oil for small-scale productions.

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