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A processing unit is to be set up in Serbithang to reduce dependence on imports

DoL: The department of livestock (DoL) will soon establish a meat-processing unit in Serbithang, Thimphu.

Last year, Bhutan imported 10,336MT (metric tonnes) of meat products worth Nu 1.37 billion from India and Thailand. Bhutan is the highest per capita meat consumer in South Asia, with about 13.5kg of meat per capita annually, according to DoL.

Dr Tashi Samdup, director of DoL, said that the department initiated the project because there was a demand for meat products in the country.

“Demand is very high and that’s draining our economy,” said Dr Tashi Samdup. “With the establishment of the meat-processing plant, people will have choices of quality processed at an affordable price.”

The unit will process meat products like ham, bacon, meat balls, minced meat, sausages, frozen and smoked chicken and chicken cuts, among others, for high-end hotels as well as for household consumption.

Tshewang Tashi, project coordinator from the Department of Livestock, said that the country has the capacity to produce processed meat. “The import figure is quite big for a small country like ours. It’s quite alarming.”

The processing unit in Thimphu will adhere to the highest nutrition and safety standards, added Tshewang Tashi.  The processing plant will process at least 10 to 15 pigs and 500 to 800 chickens per week.

There are about 143 chicken farms in the country that produces to 262MT of meat annually.  The chicken production in 2012 was 711MT, which increased to more than 900MT in 2013.  There are more than 600 fish farmers in the country.

The processing plant is expected to encourage farmers to take up broiler farming because of a ready market.

“A small country like ours can’t depend on huge imports like this,” said Tshewang Tashi.

The government has approved Nu 675M for the meat processing plant, and to increase meat self-sufficiency in the country.  The livestock department had been given more than 814 acres of land for farms in Samrang, Samdrupjongkhar.

The work for building the farms has started with fish farming on 50 acres of land.  The Samrang livestock farming will have pig, chicken, buffalo and goat farms.

A project to build fatter farm for 2000 pigs in Yusipang, Thimphu, and a turkey farm in Relangthang, Sarpang, is underway.  The department plans to start broiler farming in Sarpang.

Tshewang Tashi said the import of meat products would gradually slow down once the plant was operational. “But we’ll have to stress on quality, packaging and delivery. We might be able to produce a beef breed too.”

According to a study carried out by DoL, Thimphu, Paro and Bumthang have the biggest market for processed meat products in the country.

“We’ll make sure animals are slaughtered in a professional way, like stunning down, making the animal unconscious,” said Dr Tashi Samdup. “We have to consider how much we’re spending on the import of meat. We are targeting to get 100 percent food self-sufficiency.”

The department also has plans to export meat products to Malaysia, Singapore and Hyderabad in India.

By Dechen Tshomo

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