If Bhutan is to achieve vegetable self-sufficiency, the country must produce at least 65,162 Metric Tonnes (MT) of vegetable by the end of the 12th Plan.
While the country exported an average of 5,958 MT of vegetables in 2014, 2015 and 2016, it imported an average of 14,354MT vegetables.
National vegetable coordinator, Kinley Tshering, said that the vegetable self-sufficiency in the beginning of the 11th Plan was 83.12 percent.
Currently, it is at 86.13 percent. The self-sufficiency percentage, he said, was calculated taking into consideration the import and export trade. “The main aim is to achieve 100 percent vegetable self-sufficiency by the end of 12th Plan, which means vegetable production should increase from 52,114 MT to 65,162MT.”
The beginning of the 11th Plan saw the country export 2,721MT of vegetables worth Nu 50.52 Million (M). In 2016, 8,242MT of vegetables worth Nu 189.65M were exported. According to agriculture statistics, there was a quantity increase of about 88 percent in the vegetable export.
The self-sufficiency target is based on the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s standards and minimum requirements.
Kinley Tshering said that the majority of import in terms of vegetables included tomato and onion from India.
He said that to achieve self-sufficiency, all dzongkhags and gewogs across the country have agreed on a target with the agriculture ministry for vegetable production.
Besides achieving self-sufficiency, agriculture ministry also aims to enhance production through commercialisation and import substitution among others, to ensure household nutritional security, for enterprise development and for employment opportunities.
Kinley Tshering said that farmers tend to stick to their traditional cultivation methods. “To break the cycle of these methods, based on location, timing and marketing purposes, staggered production was introduced in eight southern dzongkhags in about 52 gewogs last August.”
About 17 vegetables were prioritised in the 11th Plan, which included turnip, broccoli, eggplant, garlic, green leaves, tree tomato, dally chili, cucumber, gourd, and carrot, among others.
Ladyfinger and squash have been added for the 12th Plan, he said.
The focus, he said, was on onion and tomato, and also on banned vegetables such as chili, cauliflower, and beans. “Some of the export potential vegetables such as cabbage, carrot, radish, asparagus, and peas are also being grown.”
It was learnt that India is the main market followed by negligible amounts of export to Bangladesh.
Shortage of water for irrigation during winter, crop damage by wildlife, pests and diseases, and lack of post-production facilities and less knowledge on post-production technologies, continue to be the challenges.
“Problems arise, especially during winter when there are not enough vegetables growing in the country. There are problems in irrigation as well,” Kinley Tshering said.
He said that the vegetable import was high during winter as domestic production was less.
The agriculture statistics 2016 show that 51,830MT of vegetable were produced in 24,298 acres.