The finance ministry has approved opening a current deposit (CD) account for an endowment fund with an allocation of Nu 20M in the financial year 2018-19.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said that the crop insurance scheme in place was not efficient and sustainable as there was not enough fund.

“Farmers were not keen with the scheme because it requires them to pay a premium,” the minister said.

The ministry is negotiating with the two insurance companies in the country to work on the crop insurance scheme.

The minister said that at the same time, to prevent farmers from suffering crop losses the government is also preparing an endowment fund through donor funding. “We’re talking with donor partners,” he said.

The human-wildlife conflict committees also known as gewog environment conservation committees were formed with an initial seed money of Nu 0.5 million from the government to compensate in some form the loss of livestock or crops to wild animals.

Since its inception in 2010, 46 such committees were formed in 15 dzongkhags across the country by 2017. The forestry department had a target of establishing 126 such committees by the end of the 11th Plan from 11 in 2012.

However, the government did not allocate any budget in the 2016-17 financial year despite the ministry having targeted to establish 36 more committees during the financial year on sustainability issues.

During the meet the press session on March 8, Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor also said that the ministry initiated the buy back scheme with cardamom and announced buy back rates in January.

The government approved the over draft facility for Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB).

However, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the government’s buy back scheme is yet to roll out.

“What the minister said about cardamom is different from our buy-back scheme,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen said that the government aims to graduate from subsistence to commercial farming with initiatives of cooperative farming groups and buy-back mechanisms.

The government is looking at redefining the roles of FCBL, Bhutan Post and farm shops and establishment of cold chain system including transportation, he said.

FCBL would buy through the farm shops and Bhutan Post would do the distribution of the produce.

“We’re trying to marry all these – ministry of health, education, labour and agriculture, then FCBL and Bhutan Post, and a good programme would come out,” he said. “This government is also looking at solving the unemployment issue through the agriculture sector,” Lyonchhen said.

The government, he said, is aware of the huge import of agricultural products in the country and the unexplored domestic potential.

Lyonchhen said there would be at least one farming cooperative in every gewog to cater to the needs of schools, hospitals, and other institutions within the gewog.

Tshering Palden