FCB has enough food reserve, assures minister

Food Corporation of Bhutan has enough food reserved as required by law, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said during the meet the press session yesterday.

He was responding to the findings of an audit performance report on FCB 2016 released recently.

Considering per capita consumption of rice, Bhutan needs to have at least 1,400 metric tonnes of rice, 200MT of sugar, and 58MT of oils in reserve to last three months, the minister said.

The audit’s performance report’s finding of 1,238MT was only based on what they found in 27 depots and not the whole 53 depots. Sugar was on 176MT of the 200MT needed.

As of June 22, there were 6,955MT of rice, 2,748MT of oil, and 1,791MT of sugar, excluding the stock for daily sale.

The agriculture ministry is mandated with maintaining food reserve. Bhutan is also party to the agreement to maintain SAARC food reserve of 360MT. The corporation is identified as the national food bank.

“One way, the audit performance report is valid because no matter how much we have, it would not be enough,” the minister said.

The finance ministry extended an over draft facility to help the corporation maintain the food reserve.

The ministry built 11 new depots in the past four years, including cold storage facilities. The audit authority investigated 27 depots. There are 53 depots including 22 sub regional depots. When the audit was conducted, there were only 61 farm shops.

“So, even if a shop had a minimum of 1MT of rice, there would be enough food reserve,” the agriculture minister said. The corporation’s board is introducing a policy for the food reserve, which would soon be submitted for the Cabinet’s approval, he added.

The Prime Minister and agriculture minister are updated every week on the food reserve.

Earlier, the corporation had to dispose of food items worth Nu 5 million as they were damaged because of lack of proper storage facilities, the minister said.

The audit was conducted during the period between 2011 and 2015. The corporation built a cold storage with a capacity of 500MT in Samdrupjongkhar and 1,000MT capacity in Lingmithang, Mongar. Facilities were also built in Khuruthang in Punakha, Nganglam in Pemagatshel, Khangma in Trashigang, and Haa.

The minister cited the example of distributing food to Nimtola in Dagana where a school was cut off by landslide last year. The government airlifted ration to the school.

“Should there be a need for emergency food supplies, there is plenty,” the minister said.

Tshering Palden

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