Chimi Dema

The agriculture ministry, through dzongkhags and gewogs, is exploring means for farmers to grow better quality cardamom.

This, according to agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor, is to facilitate cardamom growers to grow price-fetching spice.

He said that the big brown cardamom, which is currently grown in the country, cannot fetch high price as the small black cardamom that are predominantly grown in south India.

Lyonpo said this while responding to Sombaykha’s Member of Parliament (MP) Dorjee Wangmo’s query on what methods and strategies could improve cardamom yield and business during the question hour session in National Assembly on January 21.

She said poor yield and price of cardamom since last year has affected farmers who depend on it as the main source of livelihood.

MP Dorjee Wangmo claimed that about 80 percent of farmers depending on cardamom in Sombaykha and Gakiling gewogs, Haa, are facing difficulty in repaying loans they took for the spice cultivation.

She also called for revising the cardamom buyback scheme, stating farmers are complaining of low rates and limited benefits.

The buy-back scheme, initiated in 2018 by the government is a contingency strategy to provide support to farmers during market failures. The commodities are then included in the scheme and buy-back price is determined annually by a technical committee representing various stakeholders.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that given the cost of production at Nu 292 for a kilogramme (kg) of cardamom, the current market price of Nu 450 a kg is not too low. “The business is still profitable.”

He explained that when market is not good, the government, through Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd, which is the implementing agency of the buyback scheme, manages to buy the cardamoms from farmers between Nu 350 to 400 for a kilogramme.

Meanwhile, opposition party’s Bardo-Trong MP Gyambo Tshering also questioned the agriculture minister on the provision of barbed wire fencing to rural households.

The MP said that the motion regarding the government to provide barbed wire fencing materials on cost sharing model on priority basis as subsidy to affected rural households was passed during the second session of the third parliament.

“But many farmers are still waiting for it.”

He also highlighted some of the major problems villagers face in absence of barbed wire fencing. “Besides damaging crops, the wild animals also threaten the lives of villagers.”

Gyambo Tshering said that if the trend continues, it would threaten food and nutritional security in the country, considering the current estimated damage of Nu 1 billion annually.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that the government is supporting more than what was agreed in the motion. “We are providing all the required raw materials not only for barbed wire fencing, but also for electric fencing.”

He explained that from more than Nu 3B budget in the 12 th Plan, the ministry has allocated Nu1.22B for food and nutritional security. “About 50 percent of Nu 1.22B has been distributed to the local governments for various development projects.”

The local government, he said, is responsible to work on priority basis.

“Given the human-elephant conflict in the south, the ministry is also exploring options how it could be prevented.”