Self-sufficiency rate in dairy products is better but changing food habits pose a challenge 

Import: Despite effort to increase the production of poultry products, self-sufficiency in chicken has decreased over the last three years.

Self-sufficiency rate in chicken fell from 56 percent in 2012 to 42 percent last year, making Bhutan meet 58 percent of its chicken requirement from imports, according to Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) annual report 2015.

Agriculture and forests minister Yeshey Dorji said it was difficult to achieve self-sufficiency in meat, as people were not willing to open meat based enterprises. He said the government would leave meat production to farmers.

“It will be difficult for us to be self-sufficient in meat because people are not willing to produce meat,” Lyonpo said.

Bhutan is self-sufficient only in eggs since 2012.

Mutton is the  only meat product that Bhutan enjoys the highest self-sufficiency rate at 83 percent.

Bhutan imports 84 percent of beef annually. During the last three years self-sufficiency in beef increased by two percent from 11 percent in 2012 to 16 percent last year.

The country also depends heavily on imported pork. Bhutan met only 20 percent of its pork requirement last year, an increase from 14 percent three years ago.

Bhutan imported meat worth Nu 1B (billion) last year.

Bhutan imports 96 percent of its fish requirement and there has been no significant increase in production over the last three years. Self-sufficiency in fish increased from 2.5 percent in 2012 to 3.7 percent last year.

Import of fish amounted to Nu 402M (million) in 2014, according to records with the finance ministry.

However, self-sufficiency in dairy products is much better compared to meat. It was found that on an average, the self-sufficiency rate of milk has remained around 64 percent followed by butter at 82 percent and cheese at 72 percent.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said it has also been difficult to meet dairy product requirement because of change in people’s food habit. He said more people are switching to dairy products as substitutes for meat.

“The ministry is carrying out a study on how to make local cattle productive,” lyonpo said. He hopes that with people availing loans to start dairy farms, the self-sufficiency in dairy products would be achieved in the near future.

Bhutan imported dairy products worth Nu 1.288B last year.

According to the agriculture ministry, to boost dairy production, one of the interventions of the livestock department has been to increase productive (improved) cattle and reduce unproductive (local) cattle.

The proportion of improved cattle has increased from 24 percent in 2012 to 27 percent in 2014.

Livestock husbandry is one of the central components of agricultural farming and remains the main economy for subsistence farmers in rural Bhutan.

“The aspirations of the RNR sector and livestock sub-sector in particular are to create an enabling environment for farmers and entrepreneurs to invest in livestock activities for increasing livestock production, which is the core income-generating component in the subsector,” the RNR report states.

MB Subba