MB Subba

A draft agriculture stimulus plan worked out by the ministry to boost agricultural and livestock production projects a budget requirement of Nu 944 million (M).

This is equivalent to almost 31 percent of the 12th Plan capital budget of Nu 3,050M allocated for the agriculture sector.

The disruption in the regular food imports due to the Covid-19 pandemic has once again exposed the country’s vulnerability in food security. But the agriculture ministry wants to take the Covid-19 pandemic as a blessing in disguise.

The stimulus plan, which will form a part of the main economic stimulus plan (ESP), aims to strengthen food security and create employment opportunities. The strategy is to facilitate farmers and cooperative farms to produce in large quantities.

The draft plan proposes identifying an agriculture economic zone with buyback schemes.

The stimulus plan also proposes the use of fallow land, frontloading of 12th five-year-plan activities, employment generation through agriculture-based enterprises and temporary employment, among other programmes.

However, officials from the ministry said that the plan was under the review of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and that no final decisions have been made.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor presented the stimulus plan to the joint parliamentary committee on Covid-19 preparedness on March 3.

The joint parliamentary committee members also discussed concerns on issues related to pricing and sustainability of local products. Members expressed concerns about the insufficiency of food items in case of a lockdown.

Since 2012, Bhutan has been self-sufficient only in eggs.

The agriculture minister recently asked all 20 dzongdags in writing to provide assistance to farmers to increase the production of food items.

To motivate farmers, the cottage and small industry (CSI) bank would provide soft loans to farmers.

The ministry also has pledged to provide technical and procurement support to farmers.

Despite some increase in the local production of agricultural and livestock items, the gap between demand and local supply has been widening as indicated by the growing volumes of imports.

The agriculture sector exhibited modest growth with about 3.35 percent average growth rate during the 11th Plan. The sector recorded the highest growth rate of 4.57 percent in 2015.