Choki Wangmo

The government has stocked essential items enough to last for four months—worth Nu 104 million. By mid-May, the country will have stocked essential items to last for six months.

Besides Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCB), 16 wholesalers and large retailers were provided concessional working capital to stockpile essential and other commodities for six months, said Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor.

The country will require 17,000 metric tonnes (MT) of rice in the next six months. Within this month, 14,000 MT of rice would be procured from the SAARC food security reserve.

“The stock should be enough to sustain us for another the next 10 months,” lyonpo said, adding that people should not worry about stock.

FCB has stockpiled 972 MT of cooking oil and 530 MT of legumes and grains. Import continues in the meanwhile.

“So far, we are stocking at the dzongkhag headquarters. In the coming months, stocks will be distributed to gewogs and villages,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that FCB should have stock of essential commodities to last six month’s at all times.

The food stock, in the Covid-19’s wake, however, should not remain in the stores, lyonchhen said. “Whole-sellers should distribute them to retailers and people could stock-up so that there would be no major crisis in case of a lockdown.” Stocking up at homes is expected to create space at the FCB depots  to store more food reserve.

Prime Minister also urged Bhutanese to change food habits. “Food diversification will promote food sufficiency, healthy living, and reduce the impact on the economy. We have to adopt rice substitutes and eat more vegetables and fruits. A changed lifestyle could be the new normal” lyonchhen said.

To boost local food production, the agriculture ministry is currently exploring 64,000 acres of private fallow land across the nation with the help of gewog and dzongkhag administrations. The move, lyonpo said, could be a way to engage and provide commercial farming opportunities to interested groups and individuals.

“The government is there to help with agricultural inputs. Interested groups can avail themselves of CSI loans at a reduced interest rate,” Lyonpo said. “Our focus is to produce vegetables and grains that have high nutritional content and takes less time to mature.”

Improving agricultural market facilities was among the reprioritised activities of the 12th Plan, the GNHC Secretary Thinley Namgay said. It is expected to help farmers access markets for farm produce and to boost agriculture production in the country.