Choki Wangmo

With a total budget of Nu 944 million, agriculture stimulus plan aims to strengthen food security through domestic production while creating employment and income opportunities.

From April to June, Nu 160 million is being spent to involve farmers and corporate farms in large-scale production of selected food commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseed, vegetables, milk, egg and meat.

At a press briefing on economic contingency plan (ECP) yesterday, a member of the ECP task force said that the immediate objective was to meet the food requirement of the nation as agriculture is the third-highest affected sector by the Covid-19 pandemic after tourism and construction sectors.

“In the long-term, we need to develop food security and sufficiency measures using available resources for commercial farming,” the official said, adding that the pandemic allows resolving challenges faced by the ministry in data, production figure, and marketing, supply chain management and linkage between demand and supply.

The plan is first to support the farmers to produce enough to meet their consumption needs and then help them surplus, which would be marketed through farmers’ market, hotels and institutions, among others.

The member was directly involved in the project and had interacted with the dzongdags who have to report what farmers in each dzongkhag can produce and the government support that they need.

Based on the information from the dzongkhags, the government will then provide loans and farm input through gewog and dzongkhag administrations, regional agriculture office and the ministry.

Under the agriculture stimulus plan, the government is consulting farmers’ groups and cooperatives that need professional support like greenhouse materials, irrigation facilities, and farm mechanisation to enhance their productivity while creating opportunities for the young.

Farm Machinery Corporation Limited and Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation are also involved in large-scale farming and livestock product processing and packaging.

In the next 9-14 months, the ECP member said that it should be clear what the different groups can produce.

As marketing has always been a challenge, the agriculture stimulus plan is expected to establish marketing strategies. In the next three months, different groups from Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives, Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority, Centenary Famer’s Market and livestock department are looking into creating a local market for cash crops such as cardamom and oranges.

The export of these products had been severely affected due to the current situation.

Meanwhile, there are plans to link vegetable vendors in the farmers’ markets with growers in the villages who can supply the products according to demand in the market.

Through virtual zoning of dzongkhags, agriculture economic zone with buyback programme will harness the location-specific potential for faster development, which would encourage entrepreneurs and farmers in large-scale production.

To make the market accessible for farmers, the government has prioritised constructing farm roads to make them all-weather roads.

In the initial phase of the plan, one farm road will be constructed in one gewog with proper facilities. The construction is based on the total population in the gewog and their ability to produce.