The disparity between the ambitious national policy of food security and food self-sufficiency and increasing imports question where the agriculture sector is headed.
The solution, according to deputy chief planning officer for Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) enterprise development, Tshewang Tashi could be Agriculture Economic Zone (AEZ).
AEZ is a virtual zoning concept where a specific region in a country is demarcated for setting up particular RNR processing industries. Mapping the commodities with potential location is expected to mitigate variations in crop prices and production, among others.
Tshewang Tashi said that the concept was required to group potential commodities together.
There are varieties of RNR products such as crops, vegetables, livestock, wood, and non-wood products in the country. Such potential produces, according to him could be mapped into a specific location.
For instance, wheat for Haa, Paro, Bumthang, and maize for Trashigang, Pemagatshel, and Mongar.
The mapping of the produce, he said could invite investments, focus on sustainable production and could provide whatever help required by the groups.
He said that revamping the whole agriculture ecosystem might forecast a positive future for the agriculture sector.
As of today, he said that agriculture-related issues had received a symptomatic intervention, which means that if there is a problem with wildlife or irrigation, the solution was specific for these problems alone. “The sector will not grow if we continue the practice. Solving the barriers in silos won’t bring any development.”
However, if the concept of AEZ is implemented, the entire production factors: land, labour, and capital would be put together to speed up the development.
Moreover, the concept is expected to distribute investments, decongest agribusiness in urban areas, and to foster partnership among the producers and consumers.
Tshewang Tashi said that the production of value-added agro-products and strengthening the supply chain would require several interventions including the adoption of technology, innovative farming practices, and the establishment of clusters and aggregators.
This, he said would be difficult for individual farmers. “Therefore establishment of a commercial agricultural hub, and product aggregator that will support production through marketing, and buyback scheme is necessary.”
The AEZ, he said would emphasis the promotion of innovative technologies in the sector through the shift of focus from low-value products targeted for domestic consumption to producing high-end niche products.
The concept of AEZ was discussed during the agribusiness forum held in Thimphu yesterday.
Moreover, the forum also discussed the challenges facing agri-entrepreneurs.
Participants raised barriers to agribusiness including license processing, access to finance, issues related to equity or collateral –lower valuation for rural lands, and questioned balanced regional development. And they also raised issues related to Imbalance supply chain, poor market linkage and inadequate research related to agricultural businesses.
The forum saw discussions on fostering partnership for agribusiness, exploring technologies and innovations, enhancing market access ecosystem, and improving access to finance.