Inaccessibility to markets has led to increased wastage of farm produce, Members of Parliament (MP) said at the joint sitting of Parliament yesterday. 

Dagana MP Surjaman Thapa said that the situations of farmers who come to towns seeking better market opportunities were challenging. “They were not allowed to sell in the town and were chased to the periphery by the agencies. There are markets in towns like Thimphu and Phuentsholing with high population density but sellers are often fined for occupying the space.”

For example, he said that farmers from the south were selling their produce in Namseling and Khasadrapchu in Thimphu after they were not allowed within the thromde.  “These lessons should help lawmakers to develop detailed plans and policies that would address such challenges of the farmers.”

Trashichhoeling MP Dil Maya Rai said that the current pandemic has gravely affected the farmers in marketing their produce. “Earlier, we encouraged large-scale production and told farmers that there won’t be issues in marketing. But now, we’re helpless.”

The government, she said, should focus on creating strong marketing linkages.

Tashigang MP, Lhatu said that enhanced market information was inadequate to support rural farmers. “The market linkages need to be sustainable so that farmers are motivated to produce more,” he said.

The Public Accounts Committee presented the recommendations of the performance audit report on food self-sufficiency and security. The three recommendations that were endorsed by the House include enhanced market information, monitoring and technical support to farmers in achieving large scale production, and providing adequate compensation to farmers against loss of crops to wildlife and natural disasters.

Drametse-Ngatsang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that the Covid-19 has taught the importance of food self-sufficiency in the country. The issue, he said, needs government focus with increased investment in the agriculture sector.

However, the RNR sector’s development was impeded by decline in investment since the 8th Plan. Records show that the share of development budget allocated to the sector has declined from 15.6 percent and 15.7 percent over the 6th and 7th Plans to 12 percent, 10 percent, 5.6 percent over the 9th, 10th, and 11th Plans.

Ugyen Wangdi said that compensation funds to farmers were unsustainable. The government’s decisions, he said, should be based on proper research and studies.

Trongsa MP Tashi Samdrup said that most of the farmers living near parks lost half their produce to wild animals.

Besides compensation, he said, people should be provided land in settlement areas and they don’t have to undergo hardships created by conflict with wildlife. “Such measures are a step towards self-sufficiency and there would be equitable distribution of government support like electric fencing to rural areas.”

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that the RNR sector is an important but complex sector.

Due to diverse stakeholders—sellers, buyers, agents, exporters— it has become challenging to create a swift marketing system.

The ministry, Lyonpo said, is focused on increasing production but proper distribution and marketing has been a failure. “We are working on it.”

By Choki Wangmo

Edited by Tshering Palden