We are a small and developing society; agriculture is our mainstay still. A good 70 percent of our people is engaged in this vitally important sector. We are, however, not producing enough to feed ourselves. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time.
Efforts we have made and results achieved. We have invested in agriculture. Productivity has increased: that is going by the available government figures. Our farms and cooperatives are doing well. The picture looks good. But then, our import figures haven’t decreased by much. We continue import huge quantities of vegetables every year.
The important question we must ask ourselves today is: What have we not done to increase our agriculture productivity? Where have we gone wrong?
These are some thoughts that beg our attention as we ride on the national dream of achieving rural prosperity and urban wellbeing. Even as we speak, rural to urban migration is on the rise. While we take agriculture facilities and programmes to the farthest hamlets of our country, people are increasingly leaving their land fallow. Migration of young people to urban centres is adding pressure on employment. Goongtong is a serious issue that we face today. Does it not speaks volumes about our policies and programmes for rural development.
Some will find it hard to accept but let’s face it, there have been planning oversights in the past. Agriculture got pushed to the back seat while other sectors grew. In the 11th Plan, budget allocation for agriculture sector dwindled to 6.4 percent. Agriculture development suffered also because of lack of access to finance. It has been found that in 2014 credit from the financial institutions to the agriculture sector was only Nu 2.65 billion – 4.1 percent of the total 63.98 billion issued.
Agriculture is a sector with great potential. If we can make agriculture attractive and viable, it will help solve many of the problems we are facing today. More importantly, it will also help the country achieve its important national goal of becoming food self-sufficient.
But then, really, where does our priority lie?