Ten days left for vegetable ban, concerned authorities gearing up

The Prime Minister,  Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley in  recently stated on national television that the government will stop the import of vegetables from 5 May. Ten days remain before the actual halt. However, the decision has invited questions and skepticism from various quarters  on  its timeliness and  feasibility.

The month of May and June is a time when there isn’t much local produce. The main harvesting time is between June and September.  Vegetables available in the market include Patsa, damru (wild fern), coriander, spinach, spring onion, dried chilli and dried turnip leaves (Lom kam).

Vegetable seeds have just been sowed and it will take at least two more months for the farmers to supply their products in the market, said a vendor at the Centenary Farmer’s Market (CFM) in Thimphu.

From June on till November, the country is self-sufficient and farmers even produce more vegetables which are exported, said an official from the Department of Agriculture and Marketing Cooperatives (DAMC).

“We do not produce anything at this stage and we need two more months to fill the CFM with local supplies,” said the Tshogpa of the CFM, Dhendup.

Another retailer at CFM said that surviving through the ban is impossible.


From the ‘concerned’ departments

A series of meetings have taken place between the agriculture ministry and the vendors at CFM in the light of the rupee crisis.

In one such meeting on March 23 which took place after the notice passed by Royal Monetary Authority to stop issuing rupee from mid-May, concerns were raised regarding the high cost of the local vegetables, limitation of varieties, sale of produce on roadsides and inadequate rupee issue from banks.

Three options were put forth including vendors’ commitment to buy local produces, Food Corporation of Bhutan’s (FCB) engagement to buy vegetables directly from Falakatta and the possibility of FCB   buying from local producers.

As per the decision taken, the vendors agreed to buy from farmers within the country, have a long term linkage and business partnership between the two, an estimate of the total quantity of sales to be submitted to DAMC and DoA, a buyer-seller workshop to be conducted soon, and that vendors could start contracting the producers.

Annually 10,000 metric tonnes (mt) of vegetables including potatoes are being imported. During the peak   vegetable production season, 5000 mt of vegetable is supplied to the CFM, she said.

Most of the officials The Bhutanese talked to said that the stopping of import is unlikely as there are vegetables like onion and garlic which Bhutan does not produce and has to import.

“Few vegetables should be allowed but the ban should be faced boldly,” said Agriculture Specialist with Department of Agriculture (DoA), Ganesh B Chettri. Further he also said that the danger could be unnecessary increase in the price of local vegetables as the demand increases.

On the contrary, the DAMC official said that once vegetables are grown on a commercial scale, this could give competition in pricing, which would ultimately bring the prices of vegetables down.

She added saying, “This is good news for the farmers. The market is there for them. They have to gear up.”

The Agriculture Secretary, Sherub Gyeltshen said that there will be no direct ban on the import of vegetables but the statement by the Prime Minister has to be taken as an opportunity to be self-sufficient. “We have great altitudinal advantage and throughout the year we can produce vegetables,” he said adding that another advantage is that vegetables grown in the country are by default organic.


Linkage between farmers and vendors

So far, the concerned departments have not been notified on the ban. However, a lot of drastic measures are in put in place to encourage farmers to grow more and suppliers to buy from them.

Last Friday, another meeting was convened between the ministry and the vendors. In the meeting it was decided that vendors in groups of 30 each would be taken to four dzongkhags including Thimphu, Paro, Haa and Chukhha to consult the farmers.

Later, Samtse and Sarpang would also be included as these two places have the potential to supply vegetables during the lean season on the higher altitudes between November and April.

According to Tshogpa Dhendup, the groups would tentatively move out  the coming Monday.

Secretary Sherub Gyeltshen said that through this, an important link in the chain can be established as the sellers would connect to the producers.


A team visits India

A team of officials from the concerned agencies led  by Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) left the country yesterday to visit neighboring production centers in India.

The Tshogpa, also one of the team members visiting India said that it is important to learn how the farmers grow their crops. For instance, he said the tomatoes imported from India stay fresh for more than a week whereas those produced inside the country lasts only a day or two.

“So we need to know how it is done,” he said.

If the country is to be self-sufficient we would have to know how to grow vegetables India does it, said Sherub Gyeltshen.

Further he said that inputs like how the vegetables are gathered, how is it exported and how pricing is done are necessary to know.

The Bhutanese also tried contacting the agriculture minister, the Prime Minister and other agriculture heads  but they  were on tour.

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  1. What were the agriculture officials doing all these years?? (going on study tours and trainings ).. How can the secretary of Agriculture say that they need  more studies to know how vegetables are grown and priced in india!! extremely sorry state of affairs!!

    Ministry of Agriculture- wake up or get lost!!

    • well said……..i guess when government gives free upgradation of qualification thos people who goes outside saying study tour or training should donate something to the country…..having highly qualifiedPHD,masters and many other professionals warming up the office chair isnt the way they say they gona serve the country with dedication when they sighned RCSC paper…….shame on those office chair warmers…….

  2. It is the fault of the former Ministries of Agriculture?  The only thing they seem to have done is to raise the production in some pockets so that they can feed the Indian markets.  
    Another study tour?? go go.. you are all there in MoA just for study tours and trainings.

  3. haha! welcome to Bhutan! The agriculture ministry has the highest number of masters degree and phd holders! I guess they never been to a village in their entire career!

  4. O my god,what the hell id DPT government is doing now a days. When there is rupee crisis they take the decision of Ban instead of taking iniciatives to face it. When there is Fininancial problem they raise the tax instead of investigating it. Finally the middle and low income peoples are affected.

    Why did government Closed Bhutan Lottery as it is one of the top ten income Generation in the country. Why didnt govern punish the concerned officials who were involved in the lottry corruption. Why did they let Yeshey Lhendrup,Lottery Director to resign with out any justification.
    If the Heads are involved in corruption they can take decision of moral Resiganation with all benefits and what ever they earned illegally during their tenure is their profit.

    If these thing goes on BHUTAN CANNOT STOP CORRUPTION and Ruppee crisis will remain forever.

    This is the symptom of Corrupted rulers of Democratic Country whin inturn Poor will remain poorer and Rich will become Richer.
    If you are not capable of being Secetary,If you and your Ministry is held for corruption you can resign on moral ground. Next you can join as DPT candidate and if you win You can be MINISTER. Then what will be condition of his Ministry that i cant imagine only god knows.

  5. People in the Ministry of Agriculture were grinding balls, pursuing PhDs and undergoing trainings but work in the field. And now that wonderful lady is all up for such a risky move to ban import of vegetables. Please tighten your screws and secure them nicely so that you can do a proper extensive study of the feasibility of such a move. 

    • It is really funny to learn that agriculture ministry is going to study how vegetables are grown and gathered. What had they been doing so far with their fancy doctorates? It is really stupid! Cardamom is gone long ago and orange is following suit. Sooner than later, apple would follow the same fate. Many irrigation channels in the villages are out of use. Thousands of hectares of forest are burnt every year. Many farm roads remain unusable. Progress reports they make during reviews were doubted because it has been just written on the paper without seeing what actually was done on the ground. Most of the things we see today are the remnants of the Japanese Sahib. It time for the people to prick the asses of the people in the Agriculture Ministry. Lyonpo Pema Jamtsho could not bring much improvement in Agriculture sector.

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