Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

In a bid to promote value addition and processing, the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) has procured a processing plant worth Nu 3.4 million (M) with the fund from the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) project under the Department of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA).

The plant installed at the auction yard in Phuentsholing was officially inaugurated on December 11.

According to FCBL officials, the unit can process 500kg of quinoa in an hour. The processing line includes a cleaning process, followed by de-husking, washing, and drying.

The cleaned and dried quinoa kernels then undergo vacuum packaging in a 1kg quinoa packet.

There are three different packages depending on the variety and their retail price is Nu 250 per kg, Nu 220, and Nu 205.

Farmers are paid anywhere from Nu 100 to Nu 200 a kg depending on the variety and market.

An FCBL official said that they are currently exploring the local market. After certification, the product will be exported, he said.

The official also said that the majority of RNR produced from Bhutan are marketed in their raw form, limiting the realisation of its actual value at present.

“Quinoa has a high potential for the international market and the value-added quinoa is expected to penetrate the untapped international markets and fetch better prices.” The official also said that with the establishment of a processing plant, the FCBL aims to provide well-packed quinoa to domestic consumers across the country, as well as supplying schools.

Additionally, the FCBL officials said that they expect this processing plant to positively impact the farmers at the grassroots level, establishing quinoa as a primary crop due to the availability of a ready market and thus ultimately enhance the farmers’ rural livelihood.

It will also promote the Bhutan brand in the international market.

“The FCBL looks forward to venturing into more value chain processing in the near future for the various domestic products through the supply chain and value chain analysis,” the officials said.

Quinoa is also known as a “superfood” or a “super grain,” and is considered one of the most popular health foods in the world. It is gluten-free, high in protein, and one of the few foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids.

It was introduced in Bhutan in 2015 from Peru to diversify the farmers’ traditional cropping systems and enhance the food and nutritional security of the Bhutanese people.

As a climate-resilient crop, quinoa remains a major future crop towards achieving good self-sufficiency in our country.

Since its inception in 2015, quinoa production has been steadily rising.

Currently, the production has been carried out in an estimated area of about 600 acres across the nation, and the total production estimate between 2018 and 2019 was 37.16 metric tonnes.