Choki Wangmo 

To ensure increased export and reduce import, the National Council’s (NC) Natural Resources and Environment Committee recommended the implementation of a three-year marketing action plan.

The action plan was approved in the first Multi Sectoral Committee (MSC) in 2018 but was non-functional until now.

According to the recommendations report on the RNR Marketing Policy and Strategies, unanimously adopted by the House yesterday, the MSC had failed in their mandates to implement the policy.

The 10-member MSC under the agriculture ministry is chaired by the agriculture secretary and consists of officials from related agencies.

“MSC has to be functional to put the marketing system in place by coordinating and harmonising the approaches of involved stakeholders as per the policy and Terms of Reference,” the report stated.

An analysis of data from 2010 to 2019 found gaps  in the import and production of vegetables like tomatoes and onions and increased import of cash crops like apples and oranges with stagnant local production, which could have been addressed if MSC carried out their roles.

Import of fruits such as bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, and watermelon have been increasing without any exports while products like apples, shelled betel nuts, and ginger are imported at a higher price than its export price, the report stated.

The House also recommended the need for market infrastructures such as cold store, naturally ventilated store, large market, roadside market, farm shop, cooperative shop, sales outlet, pack house, warehouse, and processing equipment.

It was found that many locally grown products like cabbages and ginger were spoilt due to delayed export. Since India introduced a good and service taxation system in 2017, there were challenges in exporting agricultural produce, leading to economic loss to farmers.

The report pointed out the need to establish smaller capacity cold stores at strategic locations facilitated by refrigerated vans, other low-cost farm level stores, future utilisation plan of Centenary Farmers’ Market, and small-scale processing equipment to improve distribution of fresh and processed quality products within the country and export.

The House also pointed out that lack of coordination among stakeholders to implement the findings of the studies delayed agriculture marketing.

The report recommended the need to establish mechanisms among stakeholders to discuss the findings of market studies and adoption of technically feasible processed products through stronger and formal collaboration between marketing cooperatives department and the post-harvest centre.

Other recommendations include the need for continued support in financial schemes with sufficient budget and the need for public awareness on the Agriculture Marketing Information System.

The finance ministry has to make the CSI banking service efficient without delays in loan processing, the report stated. “CSI bank has to upload the disqualification of loan application criteria on the website and need to work on providing technical recommendation letters electronically from the departments concerned.”

The recommendations will be forwarded to the government for necessary follow-up.

The RNR Marketing Policy of Bhutan was adopted in 2018 to facilitate the transformation of current subsistence farming into commercial farming.