Chhimi Dema 

With import of vegetables restricted by the pandemic, farmers filled in the shortage resulting in a boost in local vegetable production.

Samsara Organic Mushroom Farm in Mongar produced four metric tonnes (MT) of vegetables in 2021 and 2.5MT of mushrooms. Farmer Sonam Gyaltshen said that production from his farm increased because the pandemic encouraged more local production with the closure of borders and fresh produce couldn’t be imported. 

“I made 60 percent more profit in 2021,” he said. 

In 2019, from his four-acre farm he sold 2.5 MT vegetables and 600kg of mushrooms; the following year, he sold 3MT vegetables and 1.5MT mushrooms. 

According to the National Statistics Bureau, vegetable production in the country has increased between 2018 and2020. The increase in production is attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic encouraging local production and initiatives of taking back people to the farm. 

The production data for 2021 is being compiled, but reports from 2019 and 2020 show an increase in production. There is an increase of 9 percent and 13 percent from 2018 to 2019, and 2019 to 2020 respectively. 

In 2020, vegetable production including oilseeds, spices, pulses, roots and tubers, was 165,394MT, and 142,428MT in 2019. 

Production, however, decreased from 2017 to 2018 by 31.88 percent. 

Bhutan Trade Statistics shows that in 2020, a total of 15,002.704MT of vegetables such as tomato, onion, cauliflower, carrot, peas, beans, and other were imported, not including dried and frozen vegetables. 

Bhutan imported 103,872MT of RNR commodities worth Nu 5,084 million from January to June 2021.

Rice was the major imported commodity (50,921 metric tonnes) among cereals.

A commercial farmer, Tashi, is working on 3 acres of land to grow vegetables in Pemagatshel. The 31-year-old works on the farm with his brother. The farming group was formed in 2020. 

They grow chilli, tomatoes and onions.  From the harvest last year, they earned a profit of Nu 0.15 million, he said. “We focus on growing vegetables that we import to contribute towards self-sufficiency.” “We hear about the shortage of some vegetables in the urban centres so we work to cater to their needs,” he said.  

Sanam Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that the pandemic has helped the agriculture sector to do better than in the pre-pandemic years. 

“When the pandemic hit the country, the government came up with an economic contingency plan to ensure food security which enabled the sector to use the supplementary budget for the sector’s development,” he said. 

Marketing challenges for export and import of input for agriculture were faced, he said, but it did not hamper the production, especially the production of RNR commodities such as onion, chilli, tomato for which the country is heavily dependent on imports.