Developments in the agriculture sector

As stated in the state of the nation report that the PM presented last week

Report: The government has paid Nu 119 million (M) as compensation for tsamdro (pastureland) in 17 dzongkhags so far in line with the Land Act while the Land Commission is also finalising the rules to lease tsamdros.

Presenting the 2016 state of the nation report last week, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that to hold tsamdro on leasehold basis, people could apply to their respective dzongkhag administrations.

Lyonchoen also reported that His Majesty The King has commanded to provide more land on leasehold basis to farmers for specific farming purposes. “Land on lease can be renewed as long as the purpose is met and the land is made the best use for increased farm productivity,” he said.

Lyonchoen also reported that the government continues to focus on constructing and maintaining farm roads for the benefit of farmers.

The government has built 1,540km of farm roads at Nu 1.5 billion (B) in the last three years of the 11th Plan. More than 829km of farm roads has been maintained spending Nu 960 million (M) during the 11th Plan. “This financial year, 813 km will be constructed and Nu 1,261M has been budgeted for construction and rehabilitation of farm roads,” Lyonchoen said.

The state of the nation report stated that so far 17 gewog centres (GCs) are connected with blacktopped roads of which 87 are located along the highways. This financial year 77 GC roads would be blacktopped for which Nu 1.26B has been budgeted.

“It’s not for large-scale logging or quarrying operations to take place alongside the roads,” the report states, while cautioning that GC roads are specifically designed for gewog vehicles to bring down the cost of construction.

As for irrigation channels, the report states that the government has constructed and renovated almost 500km of irrigation channels since 2013 catering to 14,620 acres and benefiting 10,406 households. To increase production of vegetables, cereals and cash crops the government has distributed 731,000kgs of seeds, seedlings and saplings of fruits and vegetables in the last one year.

In addition, the government has distributed 1,506 green houses so far while last year alone 880 green houses were supplied. The green houses are to be used mainly for vegetable production.

In the last three years, the government has installed 1,236 km of electric fences covering 7,698 acres and benefiting 6,638 households.

“The government will accelerate electric fencing,” Lyonchoen said. “The target is to cover all chiwogs but we need to prioritise the chiwogs based on community contributions, use of Gewog Development Grants and Dzongkhag Development Grants, vicinity to protected parks, and poverty incidence, among others.”

The government will provide resources and experts while communities are required to contribute labour and maintenance, the report states.

As part of the farm mechanisation programme, 462 power tillers have been distributed all over the country so far. The report states that the government will accelerate distribution of additional power tillers to the gewogs and chiwogs. “We have already trained 150 people to operate power tillers,” Lyonchoen said.

Given that farmers are into subsistence farming and also that they are resource trapped, majority of farmers cannot afford to own farm machineries, according to the report. Therefore, subsidised farm machinery services is seen as critical to make farming attractive and increase productivity to attain sufficiency in agriculture production.

As a state-owned enterprise, the Farm Machinery Corporation of Bhutan Ltd is expected to expand its operations to cover over 55,000 acres of farmland in all 205 gewogs by the end of the 11th Plan for faster and better services to the farmers.

As pledged, to help rural communities a total of 4,023 utility vehicles were imported with reduced taxes from August 2013 to March this year. The report states that most farmers prefer Boleros or Tata pickups that they can buy at a reduced tax rate of 15 percent – 10 percent sales tax and five percent green tax. Currently, vehicle taxation (sales tax, customs duty and green tax) for import of vehicles for urban areas ranges from 55 percent to 80 percent depending on the CC of vehicles.

Kinga Dema

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