Key areas include scaling up production of priority crops and high-value livestock, facilitating market, and investing in irrigation infrastructure

YK Poudel

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL) has allocated Nu 10.23 billion for the renewable natural resources (RNR) sector for the financial year 2024-25 to enhance food and nutrition security, improve farmers’ income, and increase the sector’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This constitutes 10 percent of the ministry’s overall budget outlay. In 2023, the agriculture and livestock sector contributed Nu 36,479 million to the GDP, which is expected to increase to Nu 58,698 million by 2029.

The government also plans to increase the sector’s growth by 8.3 percent in the 13th plan by prioritising high-tech farming and establishment and expansion of large-scale commercial farming.

These activities will be carried out through a partnership model with Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation, Farm Machinery Corporation Limited, Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited, youth groups and private sector.

The MoAL also plans to scale commercial production, processing, and marketing of seven priority crops – asparagus, broccoli, quinoa, strawberry, cauliflower, buckwheat, and adzuki beans through 100 percent foreign direct investment in the agriculture sector. In addition, the ministry will prioritise production of high-value livestock commodities, including rainbow trout, sturgeon caviar, yak cheese and fiber, putka and comba honey, yagyu cheese, and royal jelly.

Earlier, the Agriculture and Livestock Minister, Younten Phuntsho, said that the ministry will facilitate development of agriculture and livestock sectors through access to finance for production, price guarantee mechanism and market access.

“At the same time, the ministry will continue providing assistance to farmers engaged in subsistence farming through targeted subsidies, access to small-scale credit, technical support and improved agricultural inputs,” Lyonpo said.

The ministry will also make substantial investments in irrigation projects. Nu 343.671 million has been allocated for the fiscal year 2024-2025. Increased investments towards irrigation and water supply aims to improve farm productivity.

In the 13th Plan alone, 24 new irrigation water projects are in the pipeline, and a total of 83 water projects  will be implemented by 2029.

The budget outlay also includes Nu 3 billion for concessional financing supporting commercial as well as subsistence farming of priority crops and livestock such as rice, wheat, maize, poultry, pork, and avocado.

According to Lyonpo, the ministry is also looking at strengthening new markets through trade agreements with Nepal and Bangladesh for potatoes, and Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for other high premium agricultural products.

The target is to increase the agriculture sector’s contribution to GDP to Nu 50 billion by the end of the 13th Plan and create employment for 125,160 people. As of date, the sector employs 43.5 percent of the total population.

The government will also continue implementing the million fruit tree and high value fruit seedlings project to increase the production of high-value fruits and nuts from 37,997 metric tonnes (MT) to 73,862 MT in fiscal year 2024-25, and 104,024 MT by 2029.

The ministry also plans to establish four agricultural food hubs in Paro, Sarpang, Mongar and Wangdue in the 13th Plan.

To achieve rice-sufficiency, the government will continue to invest in irrigation canals and chain link fencing.

Over the next five years, the target is to produce 54,040 MT of paddy every year, with an annual growth target of 45,087 MT for financial year 2024-2025.

According to the Food and Nutrition Security Policy 2023, the agriculture and livestock sectors are expected to provide food for  approximately 837,288 people by 2034.