The fact however remains that the plans and programs are ‘inching’ forward.
More than 25 acres of land of 53 households of Khatoed and Khamed gewogs are proposed to be soon brought under commercial vegetable production. This will enable the dzongkhag to see an upsurge in organic vegetables production both in summer and winter. In fact, summer vegetable production has already started with 12 acres of land.
Such initiation of semi-commercial summer and winter vegetable production program by the agriculture and forests ministry is targeted to enhance cash income and improve livelihood of farmers by producing and marketing vegetables.
The Bajo research centre, National organic Program and Gasa agriculture sector jointly started the program in May this year. Through the approach of community based participatory development model, a consultation meeting was held to plan the joint activities among the stakeholders involving farmers and researchers.
Farmers were trained on the basics of vegetable production in both the gewogs while also supplying vegetable seeds for large scale production. The participating farmers were also introduced to large scale vegetable production through demonstration on nursery raising, transplanting, spacing and other management practices.
Summer vegetable production has already started. The main vegetables are Cole crops like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli and root crops like radish, carrot and beans.
Pea seeds were also supplied for dual purpose to generate income and to improve the soil fertility. This is because the gewogs are restricted to apply synthetic fertilizer for organic for maintaining organic status.
Due to reasons that leafy green vegetables and garlic are grown abundantly in the gewogs, these crops were also prioritized for commercial production.
According to the report, after having initiated the program, routine monitoring and field visits were done jointly by researchers and extension in order to monitor the progress of the activities in the field.
However, the recent road block triggered by rainfall as per the report has affected the scope of farmers to earn income and meet the set objectives of the program in general.
With the beginning of harvest season for dry land vegetables, the farmers have produced Cole crops, radish, beans, chili, leafy greens, garlic and potato which are found abundantly at present.
Market is not seen as a bottleneck for the production since they’ve potential markets in the local market area, Centenary Farmers Market in Thimphu, weekend market in Punakha and Wangdue and the Punatshangchu Hydropower project area.
Even, the large portion of the vegetable produced can be absorbed in school mess and Dratshang. Farmers do also sell their harvest at doorsteps of residences, school mess, Dratshang and shops. Few farmers even sell their products through the shops.
Few farmers are known to be hesitant to sell due to low rate quoted by these institutes. Farmers expect a higher price for their organic produce but only few vegetables like cauliflower, chili, cucumber, carrot, leafy greens and broccoli fetch a good price. Hence, it is found that vegetables like cabbage, radish and beans are difficult to sell as the consumers are unwilling to pay more.
Penjor from Remi village said the rate offered by schools and Dratshang are very low for cabbage. “They are willing to pay only Nu 15 per kg which is not attractive as the produce is organic,” he said. This has discouraged the farmers to continue vegetable cultivation. He said that the base price should be at least Nu 40 per kg; only then such ventures will become profitable.
On the same note, Dophu from Mani village said there is no market even for radish forcing him to sell it at bare minimum price of Nu10 per kg.
The first season for summer vegetable is about to complete and farmers could sell their produces only in the locality. However, at present with lot of new crops planted in the field as winter vegetable at larger scale, officials fear that these vegetable farmers might face difficulties to sell their produce at a competitive price, if the road remains closed.