Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said the country faces various challenges in rice production due to small wetland areas and irrigation water shortage.

He said that in the recent mid-term review (MTR), the ministry proposed to reduce rice self-sufficiency target from 60 to 43 percent, since there were mistakes in the past statistics.

Lyonpo said that the country’s current rice self-sufficiency is 37 percent.

In 2018, statistics reported  that Bhutan is 47 percent rice self-sufficient. The target was increased to 60 percent, which was expected to be achieved in three years. 

Bhutan cultivates rice on 53,055 acres and produces 85,090 metric tonnes (MT) a year and has an average yield of 1.68 MT per acre. 

Agriculture minister revealed the information in response to Bardo-Trong member of Parliament (MP) Gyambo Tshering’s query on the government’s policies, strategies and plans towards achieving the vision of food self-sufficiency. 

The MP said that the pandemic has created favourable conditions for the country to work towards boosting local production to achieve the food self-sufficiency goals. 

He, however, said that the proposal to reduce the target of rice self-sufficiency from the ministry was irrational. “The country should have a resilient self-sufficiency policy and strategy.”

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that achieving 100 percent food self-sufficiency is difficult, given the country’s rugged terrain, high cost of production, and small landholding. 

“Food self-sufficiency doesn’t mean that we produce all types of foods in the country,” he said. “But the ministry is striving towards producing what is viable in the country and then import what is not available. We are focused on producing not only rice but also other forms of grains and climate-resilient foods.” 

In striving towards commercial farming, Lyonpo said that the ministry was focused on niche markets and technological development in the agriculture sector. “If the cost of production is more than returns from local production, it is better to depend on cheaper imports.”

By Choki Wangmo

Edited by Tashi Dema