The National Assembly’s question hour session on December 8 discussed the need to address citrus greening disease affecting the orange growers in the country.

Some MPs said that the government’s low allocation of budget for the agriculture sector, water shortage, low expertise among the farmers, and loan default due to citrus greening were among the many problems faced by the citrus growers in country.

MP Hemant Gurung said that citrus greening had lasted over 20 years decreasing farmers’ income generation.

He added that due to the disease the farmers who had availed of loans were now losing their land and houses.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that about 39 percent of farmers of 16 dzongkhags in the country were engaged in growing oranges.

He added that while the issue persists, it was not right to say that the government did not take initiatives towards solving it. “Until 2016, it was involved in conducting research on the issue. After 2017, orange production increased to 29,000 metric tonnes (MT). Over 16,000MT of oranges were sold abroad and earned an income of Nu 479 million (M) for the people.”

While also stressing on the issues of unemployment and rural-urban migration due to such issues facing the rural people, MP Gyambo Tshering said that in the 12th Plan, only 6.4 percent of the budget was allocated to agriculture sector.

He added that for the financial year 2018-2019, only Nu 3 billion (B) was allocated for the sector. “If you want to have larger outcome in the agriculture sector, more projects, plans and investments need to be put in.”

As lack of water for the orchards was also highlighted as one of the major issue facing citrus growers, Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that in the 12th Plan, Nu 400M was set aside to bring water supply, Nu 250M to revive and manage the orange orchards, Nu 400M to improve the expertise in the field, and Nu 10M for farmers’ development.

He added that the 12th Plan’s targets was to generate 68,000MT of oranges. “The loan repayment should be carefully assessed among the farmers and we are seeking opportunities outside Bhutan to export oranges and other products. Depending only on one crop is an issue. So crop diversification should be done.”

MP Dorji Wangdi raised concerns on cardamom fetching poor price and buyers outside the borders coming together to bring down the rates.

Phurpa Lhamo