Plans to bolster domestic vegetable production already up and running

The per capita per day vegetable availability is 139g for every person against the minimum requirement of 200g and domestic production of vegetables is 30,595 MT (metric tons) against the requirement of 54,445 MT.

In view of this the Prime Minister announcing that vegetable imports would be stopped from May 19 to restrict rupee flow is not comforting news either.

But while there is skepticism from various quarters, the agriculture ministry has already strategized and planned on meeting the demands from local production.

“We are on good track to bring local produce to the markets,” said a senior officer with the Horticulture Division under Department of Agriculture (DoA), Shankar Chhetri. Various strategies have been drawn from a series of meetings taking place in the ministry.

Starting this month, it is the peak season for vegetable production during summer in the northern dzongkhags (Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Dagana, Punakha, Wangduephodrang and Tsirang). These dzongkhags are to meet the demand of their local markets, feed the Centenary Farmer’s Market (CFM) and also the southern dzongkhags.

Meanwhile, during winter, the southern belt would be producing vegetables. Samdrup Jongkhar will produce to meet local demand as well as for the eastern dzongkhags; Sarpang, Samtse, Chukha and the lower part of Dagana would cater to the northern belt mainly to the CFM.

The production plan has been developed and a team from the vegetable program under the Horticulture Division will be traveling to the gewogs next week to consult Dzongkhag Agriculture Officers and prepare action plans.

Further, to support rain water harvesting which would be a boon for the southern dzongkhags that face water shortage during winter, the division will start floating tenders to procure equipment worth Nu 500,000 today.

And by today or tomorrow, vegetable seeds except onion worth Nu 800,000 will be distributed to farmers in Punakha, Paro and Thimphu which would be ready for harvest between August to November. Farmers have been asked by the department to put up their requirement for seeds.

Major support provided during the Financial Year 2011-2012 include promotion of home gardening in remote gewogs and large scale cultivation; seeds and seedlings worth Nu 1.15mn were supplied. Seeds worth 0.82mn were supplied to 23 geogs of Punakha, Wangduephodrang and Tsirang for supply of vegetables to the Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project Authority (PHPA). Farming tools and equipment worth 0.20mn were supplied; two large semi-mechanized green houses worth 0.70mn was supplied to vegetable groups in Paro and Bumthang and many others.

“The production of onion on a large scale would take some time as it is a long duration crop,” said Shankar Chhetri. However, farmers in Punakha and Wangduephodrang have already begun onion cultivation. Farmers in Samtse have also been identified for commercial onion cultivation. He added that by next year, the produce will be available at the CFM.

In the meantime, vegetables like onion, tomato and chili which cannot be produced immediately will be imported by the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB). The National Vegetable Program Coordinator with the Horticulture Division, Namgay Thinley said “our climate is not suitable for large scale production of onion”.

On the storage issue, he said that the department is willing to assist farmers to construct zero-energy cool stores which can keep the vegetables fresh for a maximum of ten days.


The plan to accelerate production and marketing

Also, the Horticulture Division and the Department of Agriculture and Marketing Cooperatives (DAMC) have jointly developed the ‘plan for accelerating vegetable production and marketing.’

The production plan is for 13 selected vegetables. In order to adopt a focused production approach, five types of vegetables from the 13 have been identified for each gewog. The identification was done based on past trends of production, agro ecological conditions and the potential of gewogs.

For instance, beans would be grown in Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Chukha, Samtse and Sarpang with a total expected production of 1,036 MT.

For immediate production of the selected vegetables, it is proposed that 60% seed support must be provided in the first year to the farmers.


Immediate plans for CFM

A survey of vegetables available in May and June indicated a total of 4,680.90 MT of different types of vegetables from Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Chukha, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa and Bumthang.

Linking up CFM vendors with local producers and engaging FCB are the immediate plans.

If the produce from farmers is not adequate for the CFM, arrangements to supply vegetables will be made from the farms of the Renewable Natural Resources- Research and Development Centers (RNR-RDC) and National Seed Centers.

Other interventions such as transportation subsidy, marketing equipment, minimum price support and necessary inputs may be required in the process of linking producers and markets.

For these, the budget requirement is Nu 3.81mn.


Future plans

The only solution for commercial vegetable production as stated by the report is liberalization of import of hybrid seeds. This has been noted as one of the keys to success of the vegetable industry worldwide. For this, a policy review and proposal for change  would be carried out.

Major vegetables are to be cultivated on a commercial scale. Their production is to be enhanced through cluster approaches, linking mega projects and schools with grower’s groups and promoting vegetable as a relay crop to rice and others.

Further, leasing of Government Reserve Forest (GRF) to interested private entrepreneurs for vegetable cultivation may be explored. As per the RNR census of 2008, around 29% of arable agriculture land is left fallow.

The budget estimates for the required inputs (July 2012- June 2013) for production support is Nu 23.78 mn and 8.7 mn for marketing support.

For July 2013 to June 2014, the required budget is 22.73 mn for production and around 6.6 mn for marketing.


On the stats

As stated in the report, Bhutan Trade Statistics of 2009 indicated an estimated 9,357 MT of vegetable imports at the value of 116 mn. Further in 2010, the import increased by 0.11 % and the value was Nu 134 mn.

Last year, the total value of vegetables imported stood at Rs 286 mn and between November 2011 till date, the Thimphu CFM imported vegetables worth Nu 83 mn.

The domestic population is calculated at 6,95,822  along with 50,000 expatriate workers.

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  1. And who will check the sky rocketing price of these vegetables produced by our farmers, because we Bhutanese have the tendency to get rich overnight by rising the price of everything.

  2. but none is talking about the price hike which is beyond the reach of common people.
    and then there is no hike in salary and others benefits like allowances. so the future is really dark for the middle or low income people in the country. now we should stop talking about the ngh.

  3. phuntsho wangru

    As already pointed out above, in the name of local product, the vegetable vendors charge sky rocketing price. The concerned agencies may have proper measures in place to control the prices of vegetables. The cost of beans was Nu.85/- in the CFM last week in the pretext of rupee crunch which had no relations at all with the lame excuses, because the importers are still provided Indian Rupees for importing vegetables. It means the people are taking chance on the situation. The responsible agencies should cross check the prices and transportation expenses and take appropriate actions against such blood suckers! This is really necessary because there are people who are really in trouble to at least have two simple meals a day.
    God save the situation.

  4. I like the idea of producing locally. However, the issues is the cost charged by our local farmers. This is because supply & demand problems. Only few produce for commercial purpose. The majority of farmers are still in dark.
    This is where the grassrood level of RNR sector should involve intensively with the majority of rural farmers – to enhance this productivity with new methods.
    But sadly, what do some of the remote RNR sectors official do in remore place?….. i am sure we all know ….
    So unless, the grassroot level of farmers are involved in production, it will be a difficult task in balancing supply & demand

  5. Yes, the price will be uncontrollable once the import of vegetables is banned. It is too sad the middle and lower income people will have to manage their meals without the vegetable or lower the quantity to fit their income. Already the price of eggs are so high that it is out of regular menu of low income people. Govt. says now Bhutan is self sufficient on egg, which is not the case. The fact is the price is so high (compared to border town of India where it still cost Rs. 3 a piece) that the majority of people cant afford to eat it regularly and hence sufficient quantity available in market. Taking about local produce and organic are all eyewash. Take a look at fruits brought from Tsirang at CFM. The quality is so low and they use carbide powder to ripe it in time. Instead the fruits imported are much better in quality and healthy. Take the case of milk..Nu. 50 a litre that too purity not guaranteed…even in metro cities like Delhi the price is not more than Rs. 35 a litre…in small towns in India it is still Rs. 20 – 25 a litre….with this type of soaring prices how do you provide enough required nutrients to your kids.. It will be difficult situation for vegetarians who has to depend on vegetables for their daily nutrients. Everything is artificial here..the prices are artificial too..

  6. I agree that vegetable price should be fixed but with adequate profit margin for farmers. If farmers do not get good price they will not grow vegetables–a simple logic. Also it is high time that some of our young entrepreneurs and unemployed urban youth must take up agri business on leased government land. They will make good money and at the same time meet local demand for vital ingredients for our survival. Rupee shortage is a eye opener and opportunity for many Bhutanese: and we should take full advantage. Government must give low interest loan for those willing to start agribusiness.


  7. actually i was searching about flower culture industry in bhutan, for my assignment on strategic management, but all i could find from this folder is about agriculture. thank you and i will revisit when required…

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