Organic farming to help achieve food security: Agriculture Minister

Some 51% of Bhutan’s land is chemical free and settlements are few. The Minister of Agriculture and Forest, Yeshey Dorji, said “the country can obtain food security by organic farming in future as we did in the past through natural farming.”

Speaking at the 16th meet-the-press, the minister pointed out that while protecting the safety of food one has to consider the food basket which includes livestock, agricultural crops and non-wood forest products as its component. He added there are some crops that organic farming shouldn’t be practiced as they’re better cultivated in conventional or modern way.

The minister also mentioned the difference between food security and food self-sufficiency, pointing out people sometimes use those terms interchangeably. Food security is one’s ability of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food, whereas food self-sufficiency refers to the state that the country can produce all food it needs without having to import.

Food and Agriculture Organization defines that food security is achieved when “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” The domestic production of total cereals is able to meet about 60% of the total cereal demand in 2011, according to the Bhutan Renewable Natural Resources Statistics. The demand on buckwheat and maize were all met through domestic production whereas self-sufficiency ratio of paddy was about 53%.

As for vegetables the country met 89% of its total demand. The major vegetable imports include tomato, onions and chilli. During the summer, Bhutan is about 118% self sufficient in vegetables and huge quantities of vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, radish, peas and beans are exported.

The animal products such as milk, beef, pork, mutton, chicken, egg and fish through domestic production has increased from meeting 35% of total demand in 2009 to meeting about 85%. However, 97% of fish, 81% of beef, 73% of pork and 60% of chicken demand is still met from imports. The domestic production of oils and fats is negligible and more than 90% of oils and fats are met through imports.

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