Power tiller hiring services suffered delays last year mainly from the organisation change, as Agriculture Machinery Centre handed the mandate to the newly established Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd (FMCL), officials said.

Of the 2,667 acres targeted for farm mechanisation last year across the country, the FMCL achieved only 14.08 percent, which is 375.4 acres in its four regional centers in Paro, Sarpang, Trashigang, and Wangdue.

In Paro and Sarpang dzongkhags, where it has farm mechanisation projects, it achieved a progress of 22 percent of the 6,372 acres that would benefit 908 households between July 2016 and March 2017. Paro centre could only achieve 13 percent of the 3,690 acres so far covering only 279 acres. Sarpang covered 24 percent of the initial target of 2,682 acres to date.

“Since the FMCL was in transition period we could not focus,” FMCL Chief Executive Officer, Karma Thinley said yesterday in Paro during the third joint coordination committee meeting of the Strengthening Farm Mechanisation Project Phase II, which is supported by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Other factors for the poor achievement were long procedure for spare parts procurement, new staff recruitment, and that the target period started after the paddy cultivation season was over.

He said that the corporation hopes to do better in the up coming paddy cultivation season. The corporation will distribute 200 liters of fuel for every gewog in time for the paddy cultivation season this year.

Karma Thinley said that mechanics would visit the gewogs once a month for maintenance. FMCL has recruited 10 graduates as its dzongkhag focal persons, and 87 power tiller operators.

The FMCL has distributed 435 units of power tillers of which 70 are Kubota, 331 are Yanmar, and 39 sets are mini power tiller sets. There will also be spare parts distributed to all gewogs by the end of this year.

Karma Thinley said farmers would not need to import ploughs and die, parts of power tillers required to till the fields. “We have enough stock to last for two years,” he said.

He said FMCL would soon have enough stock of rice and wheat thrashers to meet local demand. “These are the most significant outputs of FMCL,” he said.

JICA chief representative Koji Yamada said farm mechanization would not only help the growing aging population in the farms in rural parts of the country but also make agriculture attractive to the youth.

Agriculture secretary Rinzin Dorji said the AMC has to be mindful of the safety aspects. Distributing pamphlets on the use of machines have to be in Dzongkha as most farmers are not literate in English.

The corporation is also asked to look into the possibility of developing a mobile application, which has information on how to repair the machines or maintain them.

“This way they can save a lot of time and money for they need not come all the way to Paro or regional machinery centers and could allow farmers to do small repairs on their own,” the agriculture sectary said.

Rinzin Dorji said land development is going to be a major activity in the 12th Plan and that farm mechanisation is going to play a critical role for the program.

Karma Thinley said given that both the Agriculture Machinery Centre and FMCL need support to train their staff and infrastructure, the ministry and JICA have to discuss of continuing support after the technical cooperation project completes next year.

Tshering Palden