Agriculture: The agriculture ministry aims to increase vegetable production to 65,200 mettric tonnes(MT) in 2018.

The production in 2012 was 43,025 MT.

The country’s self-sufficiency in vegetable production increased to 85 percent in 2015 compared with 75 percent in 2012.

An official with the Agriculture production division said that the division developed an accelerated vegetable production and marketing plan in collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) to commercialise and intensify vegetables in the country.

“Besides the development of the plan, we had several review and committee meetings at regional and dzongkhag levels and commercial production plans were developed in consultation with the dzongkhags,” he said.

The official said that support for greenhouses, irrigation systems, seeds and capacity building of farmers and field staff are provided as per the plan.

Agriculture department has been supporting commercial vegetable production in the country since 2012.

Of the total of about 21,642 acres of land that is used for commercial vegetable production every year, 10,221 acres are used for solanacious crops like chilli, tomato and eggplant. Some 6,127 acres are used for cole crops like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, while 1,300 are used for onion and garlic production, among others.

Starting this year, the agriculture ministry started commercialising winter vegetables because of ban on import of some vegetables due to high contain of toxic chemicals.

The focus will be on the production of winter vegetables like cauliflower, bean, chilli, bulb onion and tomato.

The production planning was done according to dzongkhags and the production plan activities are carried out in all the dzongkhags except Haa, Gasa and Bumthang.

The official said that the department has developed an intervention requirement as per the plan.

Support for vegetable seeds, promotion of efficient water use technologies, promotion of protected cultivation technologies that include greenhouses and promotion of other farming materials are some of the major intervention requirements of the plan.

Budget requirement for the purpose is also calculated. However, the official said that the department could not support all the requirements the dzongkhags demanded because of limited budget.

The budget allocation to the dzongkhags next year is huge and will be enough to meet the farmers’ requirements, he said.

He said that a major chunk, about 33 percent of the total budget is for capacity building of farmers. “There is a need to review and prioritise activities and budget allocation as well.”

The official said that more investment should be done on irrigation and other infrastructure. “The irrigation division is doing a good job but still farmers need support in water saving technologies and protected cultivation technologies,” he said. “It is the need of the hour.”

He said that the farmers now realise the benefits of the hybrid seeds. However, access to quality seeds is still a problem in villages. “Seeds should be made easily available during all the seasons in all villages.”

Besides poor accessibility to quality seeds in villages, lack of efficient water use technologies in potential vegetable growing areas, poor absorption capacity of protected cultivation technologies by farmers in rural areas are some of the issues faced when commercialising vegetable production in the country.

Although the national vegetable programme is focusing on commercialising and intensification of vegetables in the country, the farmers are growing vegetables in a very small scale, he said.

Focusing on commercial production in potential villages, identifying potential fallow land for commercial production, mass promotion of water saving irrigation technologies in all potential areas, introducing simple labour saving farm machineries, improving pack house, storage and processing facilities for vegetables and continuing generating improved crop production technologies are some of the way forwards to maximise the production of vegetables for commercialisation purposes.

Dechen Tshomo