Agriculture: The agriculture ministry, in collaboration with the Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd. (FCBL), launched the commercialisation of three new varieties of local rice at the FCBL outlet in Changzamtog, Thimphu, yesterday.

The new varieties are the local maap, local kaap and ‘improved varieties’.  The local maap includes au maap, bunap and ja maap.  The local kaap are chimi dorji, apa dago and tolley saap.  The improved varieties are bajo maap, IR-64 and bajo kaap.

Originally grown in places like Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu, Sarpang, Wangduephodrang and Punakha, the new variants of rice are available in seven FCBL retail outlets.  To begin with, Thimphu, Paro, Wangduephodrang, Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, Mongar and Trashigang will be the pilot areas.

FCBL’s agriculture marketing and services department general manager, Sangay Wangdi, said that, if the business proved successful in the pilot areas, FCBL would market the new variants in the rest of the dzongkhags soon.

“This was initiated to meet the goal of self-reliance in food requirement, and to substitute rice imports from India,” he said. “It’s also to encourage farmers to grow more local produce.”

To encourage farmers to grow rice, FCBL provided them with financial support, like monetary advance without interest for cultivation.  Besides, FCBL also collected the harvest from farmers at their doorstep, and made payment in cash to make it easier for farmers.

This year FCBL collected about 286 metric tonnes (MT) of rice; last year, they collected about 86MT.

The general manager said they were hopeful that it would be a success. “Our priority at the moment is the quality of rice,” Sangay Wangdi said.

Sangay Wangdi also said that the price was reasonable. “We’ve consulted farmers, agriculture ministry officials and all stakeholders, after which the price was decided,” he said.

A kilogram of local maap and kaap costs Nu 70.47 at the FCBL outlets, while improved varieties like Bajo kaap and IR-64 costs Nu 52.47 to Nu 52.12 per kg.

To maintain price-stabilisation, FCBL officials said they would not entertain any private retailers in their outlets.  The rice is available in three different packages of 5kg, 10kg and 20kg.

Meanwhile, some of these varieties are also available at the vegetable market, but the price is comparatively higher than what FCBL will be charging.

By Younten Tshedup