The challenge of achieving Food Self Sufficiency

The agriculture sector, through farming and livestock, contributes 14% to the country’s economy and 69% of the country’s population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

The government’s policy and objective is geared towards transforming traditional subsistence farming practices to producing beyond household needs through the strengthening of chab-ney-sum, the strategy to increase production, access and marketing.

With the ongoing INR crunch, there’s been an accelerated pace made in the development of new agriculture programs aimed at achieving food self-sufficiency and decreasing food import by the end of the current plan.

The Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, in the State of the Nation report, stressed on doing away with the import trend and for the nation to be self-reliant by improving productivity in agriculture and producing beyond internal consumption and enough to be exported.

The PM said there are plenty of opportunities in agriculture as there are fertile lands and a rich biodiversity in Bhutan. Improvement in agriculture and large scale production and commercialization is expected to help address food security, livelihoods, poverty and employment, and achieving self-sufficiency in cereal production, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry and fisheries.

The report states that the government has invested on the promotion of winter crops, like wheat, maize and mustard, and the domestic cultivation of new varieties of crops, fruits and vegetables on a commercial scale to meet the domestic and export demands.

In efforts to strengthen production, the government will improve irrigation networks, agro processing, and support small agro-processing schemes.

The PM said such efforts will be carried out by working closely with the Business Opportunity and Information Centre (BOIC) to ensure that ideas, training and money is made available for young school dropouts to encourage them to take up agricultural activities.

To improve the access to markets, the government plans to make investments in mechanization, supplying equipment to build new farms roads and improving the road networks to connect to the markets.

As the government’s new strategy in marketing, the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) is to be upgrade and expand to places where farmers can sell their farm produce to FCB. Further, the government has directed FCB to look at guaranteed buy back for certain food items.

The State of the Nation report states that the past year saw a remarkable progress in attaining vegetable self-sufficiency and the country has produced 2,822MT of vegetables with an export value of Nu 53 million, which was 35% increase over the 2012 production.

In the import front, the report shows that the overall import made on food is Nu 4936.59mn, including butter, cheese and powdered milk worth Nu 896.26mn. Likes wise, about 13.831MT of vegetables worth Nu 305.48mn was imported, meat and fish worth Nu 922.72mn, about 71,996MT of rice worth Nu 1249 mn was imported along with 8914 MT of cooking oil worth Nu 716.09mn has been imported so far.

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