Choki Wangmo

In the last three months, the government has distributed 7,415 metric tonnes (MT) of rice, 805MT of oil,425MT of dal, 34MT of butter, 344MT of cheese, 188MT of milk, 2,346MT of milk powder, and 19.5MT of tea.

This includes stocking essential items in the far-flung dzongkhags such as Dagana, Zhemgang, Mongar,

Lhuentse, and Trashiyangtse, according to Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor. “We have stocked up in remote areas in preparation for uncertain situations during monsoon.”

The items are first stocked in gewog and dzongkhag administration, and the regional go-downs.

Phuentsholing go-down has stored 5,635MT of rice, 739MT of oil, 337MT of pulses, 186MT of salt and 270MT of sugar for emergencies.

As people raised concerns about the expiry date of the stocked goods, Lyonpo said that stocks would be replenished. “The consumption period of goods in the retail shops will expire earlier than those in the go- downs.”

“Food security is not only about quantity but also about quality, and we ensure consumer protection,” he added.

The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority and the Office of Consumer Protection are monitoring to avoid the challenges.

Lyonpo said that the food security policy required three months’ supply of essential items for 50 percent of the total population during disasters and epidemics like the Covid-19, but upon assessment, it was found that the country had only 20 days worth of supply for half the population. “The policy was never implemented because the country did not face national problems in the past except for flashflood and earthquake in small pockets.”

Wholesale dealers and the Food Corporation of Bhutan are regularly importing according to market demand and not in one go, thereby addressing the problem of expiry dates.

Besides Food Corporation of Bhutan, 16 wholesalers and large retailers have been provided concessional working capital to stockpile essential and other commodities for six months.