YK Poudel

As an offshoot of the Bhutan AgriTrade and Investment forum (BATIF) 2024, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL) had decided to increase the output from agriculture and livestock through FDI, harnessing technology, encouraging commercial farming, and targeting high-value commercial crops export. 

Sharing the progress and areas of focus post-BATIF during the fourth Meet-the-Press session on May 30, the agriculture and livestock minister, Younten Phuntsho, said that the government had declared 100 percent equity on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the agriculture sector to encourage and enhance investment in the agriculture sector. 

“Unlike other sectors like the service industries, the agricultural sector has not been seen as attractive given numerous risks and challenges the sector faces,” he said.

“FDI in agriculture is important to enhance food and nutrition security. Besides investment in terms of financial resources, the FDI in agriculture is expected to enable bringing in new technology, access markets, new varieties of crops, enable production at scale, value add and improve supply chain in agri-food systems,” Lyonpo said.

He added, the ministry was looking at large-scale commercial farms including Chirub Farms, high- value commodities farming, improving the supply chain and access to markets, for investments both from FDI and domestic investors.

At the sidelines of BATIF, several bilateral business to business (B2B) and business to government (B2G) meetings were held to discuss and explore partnership and investment opportunities.

A Bangladeshi company PRAN had expressed interest to establish a large-scale agriculture farm in Bhutan focusing on diverse crops in different agricultural zones. 

Discussion had also been held with companies such as Oshiye and Company Limited in Japan, Satugana Group of Companies from India and Pico Alive from Thailand for possible future collaboration and investment.

FDI was being targeted to boost the production of six key commodities – mandarin, quinoa, rainbow trout, black pepper, asparagus, and strawberry. Additionally, new products such as honey, coffee, buckwheat, and spices could be added to the basket if found viable. 

Bhutan had embarked on agri-tourism and labelling initiatives to boost exports and improve the business environment. In Bhutan, agri-tourism played a crucial role in promoting climate resilience and enhancing the agrifood system.

During the BATIF event, Lyonpo said that Bhutan had the potential to reshape and transform its agri-food system, contributing not only to the nation’s food and nutrition security, but also to global efforts towards sustainability.

“In the policy context, Bhutan’s agrifood system was underpinned by a robust macro-policy framework, driving sustainable agriculture, food security, and economic prosperity,” Lyonpo said.

Introducing Hi-tech Chirub farms, the minister said, was one of the many strategies planned by the agriculture department to enhance production. “These advanced farms will leverage cutting-edge technology to optimise efficiency and productivity.”

The ministry was advocating for integration among key agricultural agencies to strengthen the use of resources, expertise, and proven technology to enhance capacity building among farmers.

The sector employed 43.5 percent of the population in 2.75 percent of arable land. The contribution, as the primary sector to the GDP, had steadily declined from 38 percent in 1992 to 14.67 percent in 2022.

Bhutan aimed to increase the agriculture sector’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product from USD 365 million in 2022 to USD 625 million by 2029, and USD 854 million by 2034.