hough the Japanese govt. has agreed in principle to the request, a decision has yet to be taken

JICA: The government has requested the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for 400 power tillers to be delivered in a first batch, under its request for 1,450 of the machines made to the Japanese government.

Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC) programme director, Karma Thinlay, said that the request for a first batch of 400 power tillers, following the discontinuation of the KR-II grants that supplied Bhutan with power tillers, has been agreed to “in principle” by the Japanese side.

It has been proposed that supply of the 1,450 power tillers be supplied in four batches of consecutive years, with 400 in the first, then 350, 300, and lastly, 400.

The request for the 1,450 power tillers is yet to be officially accepted by the Japanese government.

JICA adviser Masanori Sunada said that the request was still being discussed and considered.

He said it might take some time for an official decision, as the Japanese cabinet would have to make it.

But he also pointed out that JICA is only an implementing agency and is also awaiting instructions from the Japanese government.

However, he said that power tillers would now be provided under the general grant aid assistance programme, which also covers construction and repair of bridges and schools, among others.

A response was not received from the Embassy of Japan in New Delhi as of last evening.

Meanwhile, the last batch of 239 power tillers being provided under the discontinued KR-II grant assistance, has arrived in the country.

The power tillers are currently being assembled at the AMC in Paro, according to Karma Thinlay.

These 239 power tillers are likely to be distributed to locations where there are less numbers, like central and southern Bhutan.

Karma Thinlay said, with the 239 power tillers, all 205 gewogs will be covered.  He said 166 power tillers have been distributed so far for hiring purposes, along with 70-80 tractors, and various other kinds of equipment like weeders, water pumps, among others.

Asked how mechanisation efforts would be disrupted if the Japanese assistance is delayed, Karma Thinlay said that efforts would be affected.  However, he said, there were back up plans.  For instance, he said, there were talks with a Japanese company Kubota tractor corporation to be their dealer in Bhutan.  He said talks were also underway with a company in Myanmar.

He also pointed out that the private sector in Bhutan is also now supplying farm equipment and that it could become a viable source and driver of farm mechanisation.

The country has so far been receiving power tillers and other farm machinery from Japan through the KR-II grant assistance that began in 1984.

So far, Bhutan has received 2,795 power tillers through KR-II.

With the aid of the KR-II grants, 13,099 acres of farmland have been mechanised. Each acre of farmland that has been mechanised is equivalent to six people who would have otherwise been required there. It has also led to a 15 percent increase in crop yield and 49 percent reduction in farm production costs.

By Gyalsten K Dorji