Food Corporation of Bhutan will instead import vegetables for vendors
“There is no vegetable import ban, the story of there being a Ban on the import of vegetables is not true”, said the Agriculture and Forest Minister Lyonpo (Dr.) Pema Gyamtsho.
The minister said that the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) will be distributing imported vegetables to the vendors but there was no ban.
“We would not be able to do and it is not desirable”, said the Lyonpo.
The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley also clarified in meet the press that his statement on television had been misinterpreted and misunderstood as a vegetable ban was never meant to take place.
This paper had earlier reported that a direct vegetable ban is unlikely and instead FCB is planning to import vegetables.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forest (MoAF) will authorize the Food Cooperation of Bhutan (FCB) to import all the vegetables required by the country in addition to what can be produced as an interim measure.
This will ensure that there is no sudden shortage as FCB will be distributing imported vegetables to the vendors for the Bhutanese consumers.
“The only thing happening on import of vegetables is that the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) is not issuing Indian rupees (INR) to individual vendors for purchasing vegetables from across the border to stop leakages,” said the minister.
RMA will soon stop supply of rupees to the vendors who are engaged in the business of vegetable imports.
The minister said that with no rupee in hand, vendors will not be able to bring in more vegetables which will reduce the availability of the Indian vegetables in the markets.
According to the ministry’s own estimation, most of the vegetables requirements can be supplied from local production towards the end of May this year.
“However, it is not practical to say that all the demands from consumers will be met immediately from local production,” said the minister.
He said that the ministry has done surveys and estimations and identified sources from which vegetables that will flow to the Centenary Farmers’ market in Thimphu.
In an effort to increase the production capacity of home grown vegetables, the ministry has studied Dzongkhags such as Punakha, Paro and Thimphu.
The MoAF, however, expects slight increase in the price of vegetables. This according to the minister is inevitable during such transaction phase.
Lyonpo reiterated that there is a need for both the producers and consumers to change their mindsets.
He said that farmers should be willing to work tirelessly in the farm while consumers cannot keep expecting everything at a cheaper rate.
The minister pointed out that a consumer going for cheaper goods does not encourage the farmers to produce more. He said that the change in preference will determine how gradually Bhutan can replace the imported livestock and agricultural products.
The ministry is already engaged in forming farmers’ group and cooperatives to increase the production of vegetables and other commodities.
“We are encouraging commercialization of vegetable production too”, said the MoAF Minister.
The ministry is already putting in concerted efforts by distributing seeds, green houses and also enhancing the irrigation scheme.
The present INR crunch would provide much needed impetus for enhancing agriculture production according to MoAF officials.
Lyonpo explained that vegetables are seasonal crops which do not require full seasons to grow and so the short growing seasons can enable the growth of different kinds of vegetable in various parts of the country.
“This is not happening because of cheaper and easier access of affordability of the Indian produces,” said the agriculture minister.
Lyonpo said, “if our people are willing to work a little harder and invest little more, there is enough land during winter which is often kept fallow.”“The ministry finds no need at this stage to lease any land as there is enough land which is not cultivated”, he added.
He said that the resources of agricultural production are controlled by the individual farmers, like land which farmers can choose either to cultivate or leave barren.”The ministry can only facilitate and encourage the farmers by advising them with right technologies and production techniques,” said Lyonpo.