… pledge to transform the agriculture sector

YK Poudel

With 13 days until the poll day of the primary round of the fourth National Assembly elections, voters have not long to sift through the manifestoes of the political parties to decide on their votes.

Agriculture, a major sector that employs a large portion of Bhutan’s population, features prominently across the manifestoes of all parties. The parties pledge agricultural sector development aligned to self-sufficiency and improving the economy.

The BTP recognises agriculture as the enabler of rural prosperity under five key economic drivers—agriculture is termed ‘Ju-nor Dhangpa.’ DNT’s manifesto centres around economic growth through agricultural development and rural growth. DPT has also placed agriculture as a means to enhance rural prosperity and national food security. The DTT has included agriculture as one of the drivers of the party’s ‘Sunomics’ manifesto. PDP’s fifth pledge is agriculture farming for transformed Bhutan.

BTP has tabulated 25 promises as the top priority of the party. DNT has promised to fulfil 18 agricultural development targets.  The DPT has 14 pledges with other targets included. The DTT has five major pledges in the agricultural sector. PDP has four targets in agricultural development which also includes other goals.


Bhutan Tendrel Party

BTP views that agriculture plays a pivotal role in sustaining livelihoods, both in urban and rural areas.

According to the party, the agriculture sector which employs 43 percent of the population holds the potential to serve as a launching pad for commercial farming—commercial farming is looked at as crucial means of food security and promotion of economic growth in the agriculture sector.

BTP pledges to earn Nu 7 billion by 2029 through export. Trade regulations will be made periodic changes to facilitate market access and stability in agricultural trade along with online trading infrastructure development. Upscaling of food analysis laboratory to international standard, with an increased number of cold storage facilities and warehouses that can reach grass-root level through mini-cold storages.

The new pledge which other parties do not have is the agro-tourism pledge for rural development. For the ease of timely completion of works, the party plans to facilitate the import of seasonal labourers. The party like all other parties pledges to strengthen electric and chain-linked fencing, among others.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa

DNT manifesto says that in the past five years, despite the immense challenges, the party focused on water, chain-linked fencing, buying back farm produce from the farmers and finding markets.

According to the party, agriculture development, food and nutrition security, ensuring self-sufficiency in food and reaping economic opportunities are its goals this time.

DNT has committed to contributing 7 to 8 percent annual growth rate to GDP with a focus on high-value agriculture and livestock production, processing, and marketing. The party will provide adequate irrigation water for all by adopting better and enhanced technology.

Moreover, the party has promised to install chain-linked fencing in all chiwogs to protect crops and enable higher yields. The farmers will be allowed the right to determine the type of land use in areas with difficulties, such as no access to water, and disaster-prone areas.

DNT has promised to invest in technology and make agriculture and livestock a major contributor to the economy.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa

DPT points out that Bhutan although largely an agrarian economy, the sector’s potential remains hugely unexplored. To do that, DPT has promised to mechanize farming with appropriate subsidies on farm implements and machinery for farmers—identifying special agricultural zones to ensure economy of scale and productivity.

The party has listed the promotion of Bhutan as a source of organic products, sufficient water for irrigation, timely provision of improved and high-yielding crop seeds, and establishment of cold storage facilities as major promises.

All the parties have similar mandate in the agricultural sector—which is to achieve food security, high-value agriculture and promotion of Bhutanese products. The parties promised to strengthen and improve the rural domestic market and supply chain.

Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa

DTT believes in policies that will improve the productivity of the agricultural sector and support labour force participation. The party pledges food self-sufficiency and rural skills transfer.

According to the party, the primary sector remains unproductive and heavily dependent on imports further worsened by rural-urban migration and Bhutan to abroad trend which is rising. “DTT shall address this issue through a careful and coordinated transformation of the rural economy.”

DTT has some general pledges such as the promotion of at least 10 crop products a year making them competitive in yield and affordability to reach self-sufficiency in those crops in 10 years. The party also plans to bring in seasonal labourers.

The promise is to improve the productivity of agriculture so that GDP contribution is maintained at 20 transferring skills from the massive labour force of over 43.5 percent to other productive sectors.

People’s Democratic Party

PDP recognises the pivotal role that exports of products and services play in fostering economic prosperity—to support the growth of agriculture, the party pledges to promote the export of Bhutanese goods and services. “Allow FDI in small and medium-sized investments, particularly in agriculture and ICT sector.”

The party pledges to introduce the “Buy Bhutanese Product” initiative, mandating all government agencies to procure Bhutanese products while encouraging others. Bhutan will see five dry ports across the country—PDP has committed to boosting farmers’ income by five-fold and making significant strides toward National Food and Nutrition Self-sufficiency through the “Transforming Farming and Agriculture” programmes.

The party will look into land management, sales promotion, marketing and production support, export promotion support, One Gewog One Product (OGOP), and Chirub collective farms as major promises if elected to form the government.