The agriculture ministry is expecting another 400 power tillers as grant from Japan by September this year, according to agriculture officials. 

Agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, said it is part of the 1,450 power tillers that Bhutan requested Japan to provide as grant in the 11th Plan. A project to supply power tillers was initiated in 2015 based on the request. 

He said the country has received 744 in three lots of 152, 239 and 353 power tillers in the 11th Plan so far.

“Giving the power tillers takes its own course and time, as the Japan government has to tender the supply of machines to the manufacturing companies,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said. 

Ambassador of Japan to Bhutan, Kenji Hiramatsu handed over 353 sets of power tillers and accessories worth Nu 137 million to agriculture minister in January this year in Paro.

“We’re waiting to furnish the remaining 858 power tillers for proper and efficient use of these machines,” the Ambassador had then said.

He said that over the past 30 years, Japan provided 3,592 farm machines and that the machines were symbols of friendship between the two countries. 

Including the power tillers from Japan, the ministry has so far acquired 1,090 power tillers, including four tractors, as the country embarked on farm mechanisation. 

The ministry bought 192 mini tillers through various projects with budget support from Global Environment Facility, European Union, World Bank, IFAD, and FSAPP, among others. 

“These were distributed in places with difficult terrain as they are suitable in such areas,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said. 

Another 144 Yanmar power tillers were bought to complement the fleet. “The four gewogs in Bumthang were given a tractor each as they did not want power tillers,” the minister said. 

He said that about 100 units of power tillers would be kept with the Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd (FMCL) for common hiring. 

Of the eight percent of the arable land, only 2.93 percent of land is under cultivation. Most of it in the country, according to agriculture officials, remains semi-mechanised mostly with the supply of subsidised power tillers received under the Japanese KRII grant schemes.

The country has been gradually shifting from subsistence agriculture to commercial farming to increase food production and productivity.

The government targets to expand mechanisation and cover about 55,000 acres of farmland in all gewogs by the end of the 11th Plan.

With more focus on land development in the 12th Plan and farm mechanisation, the minister said the farm machines would contribute in reducing poverty and ensuring food and nutrition security. 

Tshering Palden