All four political parties have prioritised agriculture as one of the main areas of investment and development in their manifestos.

Despite being the largest employer, the agriculture sector’s contribution to the national economy has remained stagnant. Lack of infrastructure including irrigation facilities, roads and labor shortages has been some of the impediments to the development of agriculture.

The parties have also highlighted lack of access to market and agricultural credit and post-harvest management issues as some of the constraints.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has pledged to strive to achieve 70 percent food self-sufficiency across major food items in the next five years.

The party promises to introduce guaranteed buy-back scheme of agricultural produce and facilitate agriculture trade and business. Promotion of cultivation of all fallow lands in the country will be one of the priorities.

PDP says it will construct 700kms of new irrigation channels that will irrigate about 50,000 acres of land while maintaining existing irrigation channels. New irrigation and water efficient technologies will be explored.

If elected, the party has pledged to establish agricultural enterprises for products such as honey, egg, piggery, dairy and others in different parts of the country.

PDP has promised to provide one more power tiller to every chiwog so that every chiwog has a minimum of two power tillers. “We shall establish repair and maintenance workshops in every gewog,” the manifesto states.

It promises to provide land on lease to encourage youth to take up agriculture and that such opportunities will also be extended to retired civil servants and retired armed force personnel who want to take up commercial farming.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) promises to double rural household income in five years. The party believes that the development of agriculture can also help the government halve income poverty from 8.2 percent to less than 4 percent.

The party manifesto states that it will provide concessions on the price of all kinds of RNR implements and farm inputs to make them easily accessible and affordable. If elected, the party will provide low-interest rate loans to farmers and youth for commercial farming.

DPT pledges to invest in irrigation schemes and bring all land suitable for irrigation under cultivation, and provide generous support for provision of irrigation water.

The manifesto states that it will mechanise farming through sale of farm machinery and equipment at concessional and affordable rates. It will also support and promote land development and management.

The party promises to review and streamline farm shops and facilitate in marketing of farm produce. “We will explore export markets and support marketing of agriculture and cash crops.”

As part of its policy to develop agriculture, Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) has promised 100 percent functional irrigation facility on the existing infrastructure.

The party will also repair existing and develop new irrigation channels through effective implementation and promote smart technology suiting crop and climatic conditions.Smart and resilient agriculture corresponding to climate change will be adopted.

BKP has promised to review Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995 and create enabling provisions and compensations for crop loss and damage (wildlife and natural disaster).

A BKP government will institute a National Organic Program under the Prime Minister’s Office. The party also believes that farm roads must be improved for development of agriculture.

If elected, BKP promises to set up market infrastructure at the source of production, cold storage and warehousing facilities in production centers and cash and digital bank transfer facility.

If the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) forms the government, the party says it will buy agriculture products from farmers at market price and provide subsidies to produce more and earn better.

“Henceforth, our farmers can be assured that their local farm produces will be sold,” states the manifesto.

How will the party realise the promise? The government will procure farm produce from farmers at a price announced a year ahead and ensure the state introduces new crop insurance schemes for farmers.

DNT will install cold storages at strategic locations and establish a network of agriculture marketing centres through outlets. Such cold storages and warehouses would be set up in strategic locations.

“We will remove tax for farmers on income generated from primary agricultural produce. We will support employment in agriculture,” states the manifesto.

Enhancing agriculture products will be one of the strategies of the party to reduce imports.

MB Subba