Agriculture development in the country must take a new turn. Otherwise, we would be talking about the same problems 100 years from now.
The first problem is the land. Our farmers do not have enough land for large-scale production. The bigger problem is that landholding is decreasing by the year.
Second, mechanisation of farming is difficult in many places because of terrain. Power tillers and subsidies work only in certain places and farms.
Then there is the problem of market. The buy-back strategy was bound to fail. Farmers have the right to complain when they can’t sell what they grow and harvest. But the government also can’t buy everything that grows on the land of the farmers.
Such stupidity ought not to have been given a priority but we did out of desperation. It is exactly this lesson we must take to the heart—we produce enough to eat.
That means linking our farms and markets well. That also means how we can add value to what we produce.
The focus of the agriculture ministry now has to be to encourage the farmers in different dzongkhags to grow crops that do well in their places. Prioritising crop production according to seasons is not rocket science.
For Bhutan to have to rely on India for even a kilogram of chilli is shameful. We say that we are an agrarian country but import almost all the varieties of vegetables from our neighbouring country. And also meat products.
And we discuss our “food self-sufficiency” in every session of parliament. Food self-sufficiency has been Bhutan’s dream since the first plan period in 1961.
How far have we come?
We have not made a serious move. There could have been some serious distractions along the many plan periods but time has come for the nation to realise that food self-sufficiency can decide a lot of things for the nation.
To put some realities in the perspective, why are our cities and towns becoming crowdier by the day? Why are our people from the villages coming to the town in droves? Why are our youth finding it difficult to find employment? Why are import figures rising by the year?
These are simple questions. Often, simple questions dig deep into the malaise facing the nation.
There is a need for the many government policies to meet somewhere. Agriculture development must take a new turn because it has the potential to address a lot of difficulties facing the country.