Choki Wangmo | Dagana

Sidaman Gurung, 40, from Tashiding in Dagana, ventured into what many thought was an unconventional business, in 2015. Today, he is a successful contract farmer with 200 sows (adult female pig) and an owner of Gurung Pig Breeding Farm, supplying piglets to farmers across the country.

“This business has helped me earn income and improve my livelihood while working towards self-sufficiency in the country,” said Sidaman Gurung, who believes that someone has to break the stigma related to meat production in the country. “Our consumption is ever increasing, but local people consider it a taboo to produce meat products locally.”

Earlier this year, he joined as a contract farmer with the Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation Limited (BLDCL). As a member, on a cost-sharing basis, BLDCL supports production inputs such as piglets and feeds to the farmers. Farmers sell their products to the company at an agreed rate.

In a month, he needs a feed worth Nu 700,000 for 200 sows.

According to the agreement, he has to supply 100 piglets to BLDCL’s contract farmers. For each piglet, BLDCL pays him Nu 5,000.

In a year, a sow produces about 16 piglets. On his farm, he has six pigsties with each sty accommodating about 10 sows and piglets.

With such mechanism with BLDCL, many farmers in the dzongkhag said that they do not face marketing challenges.

A dairy farmer from Tashiding, who also wants to join as a contract farmer, said that he observed contract farmers earned more profits compared to non-contract farmers. “Since half the cost is borne by the company, we will be able to produce and earn more.”

A poultry farmer from Goshi gewog, Karna Bahadur, joined as a contract farmer in 2018. “In the beginning, I wasted resources and ran into losses. Marketing was a challenge. With the support of the company, I am experienced and aim to produce more.”

He said that without other sources of income, starting a farm was an enterprising idea. “Vegetable business is not lucrative and is vulnerable to climatic conditions.”

He started the farm with 500 broilers, which has now increased to 1,400.

However, he hopes that BLDCL would increase the farmgate price in the future. For a kilogram of chicken, he earns Nu 180. “If it is increased to Nu 200 a kg, it would be profitable.”

He plans to renew his contract with the company.

There are 34 contract farmers in Dagana.

Enterprise development officer with BLDCL, Reshma Tamang, said that in their recent meeting with farmers in the dzongkhag, there was an increased number of interested people in Tshendagang gewog.

She said that BLDCL facilitates the farmers with desired production and marketing inputs to sustain their farming and encourage incremental production with time. “We learnt that the majority of livestock farmers discontinue farming due to inconsistent input supply coupled with an unassured market to sell their products.”

BLDCL supports farmers with the input supplies such as DOCs, feed, piglets, among others, which reduces financial burden on the farmers.

“The cost-sharing mechanism not only benefits the farmers but it also helps the company to recover investments through livestock products,” she said.

Market, she said, is assured for farmers and the farmers can focus on enhancing the production.

The success of contract farming is impeded by erratic import which affects feed supply to the farmers.

In transporting their products safely, farmers have to arrange ice boxes that are in short supply in the market.

Due to protocols, the farmers said that the pandemic had hampered timely transportation of their products.

In the future, Reshma Tamang said that BLDCL plans to strengthen the cold storage facility and services and ensure consistent input supply. “BLDCL is working towards food security, reducing trade deficit and ensuring that there is production by mass, attributing to wealth distribution.”

According to records with the dzongkhag, Dagana has 203 piggeries and 74 poultry farms. It includes commercial and mega farms.

From 2019 to 2020, the dzongkhag produced 1,14615 eggs, 114.615 metric tonnes (MT) of chicken, and 81 MT of pork.

Through various initiatives like the bigticket initiative, the dzongkhag encouraged increased production.

According to Renewable Natural Resources annual statistics 2020, although the import of meat increased to more than 12,102 MT in 2019 from 10,978MT in 2018, an increase of 10 percent, the import of pork decreased to almost 1,682MT from 1,753MT, a decrease of 4 percent.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk