Staff Reporter 

The Opposition Party has said that the government must look into the issue of farmers’ inability to sell vegetables during the production season.

In a press release issued on July 2, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa recommended that the government should improve the buy-back system with minimum guaranteed price.

One of the causes of the problem, the Opposition said, was that vegetables from Bhutan were not in the list of imports allowed into India. This, it stated, was a major problem for our farmers and the future of the Bhutanese agriculture sector.

“Such situations do not bode well with the country’s pursuit to maximise domestic food production to achieve a minimum degree of food security, increase employment openings in the agriculture sector, and to conserve and deepen the vitality of rural communities,” the press release stated.

It also stated that the government should sort out the issues surrounding the export of vegetables to India.

The Opposition recommended improving the linkage between production gate and the domestic market and focusing on improving sorting, packaging and quality of exportable farm produce. In light of the recent parliamentary ratification of the Preferential Trade Agreement between Bhutan and Bangladesh, the government should explore the Bangladeshi market, it added.

“It is as disheartening as discouraging that our farmers are not able to sell their vegetables this production season. Media reports and our inquiry with farmers, especially those from the Southern, Central and Western regions, have made it clear that metric tonnes of vegetables could not see the market this time around,” the press release stated.

The Opposition said that there were reports that farmers had to dump their vegetables into rivers and feed to cattle after they failed to sell them. It added that the recent case in point is the farmers of Naja of Paro getting into huge financial loss after their popular vegetable, cabbage and a few others, had to be left to rot.

Farmers of Zhemgang, Sarpang and Dagana, the press release stated, were struggling to sell their chilies. “The primary causes of this unfortunate problem, as we understand, are the government’s inefficient buy-back system and our farm produce being disallowed to be exported to India because of some fissures in the trading arrangement between the two countries.”

It added that many farmers who could not sell their vegetables have taken loans from the National Cottage and Small Industries (NCSIB) as the government encouraged farmers to up-scale their farm production to meet the demands following the Covid-19 outbreak in the country early 2020.

The inability to sell the farm produce, it stated, would discourage farmers from engaging in agriculture. “If left unattended, this could lead to many associated economic and social problems. Leaving the farmers in financial debt and grave implications for the country’s food security are the immediate consequences.”