Strengthening Agri-Business In Bhutan

"It is imperative that agriculture, being a jewel selected by the government, must be treated like a jewel," said Ugen Tsechup Dorji.

Rice harvest in Paro. (Source: Drukasia)

 

By Damcho Poe| The Bhutanese

A group of panellists from different sectors held a discussion on agri-business during the ‘Better Business Summit’ on 18 May.

Though agriculture is one of the five jewels of Bhutanese economy which involves 70 percent of the private sector workforce, it contributes only 18 percent to the country’s GDP. Bhutan continues to depend on food imports with rice being one of the largest imports.

 

Source: Drukasia

The Chairman of Zimdra Industries Pvt. Ltd., Ugen Tsechup Dorji said, “We live in a fantastic country, all happy and peaceful and we want to continue this way, but we need to bridge the gap between rich and poor and how do we go about that?”

“The only way is to address the majority of the population, where 65 percent of our people are farmers,” he added.

The Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) came up with a proposal called ‘One District Three Product (ODTP)’. It is aimed at strengthening agri-business in the country.

“We had to look for a commercial viability of the products, we need to get in touch with the countries close to Bhutan and find out what are the organic products as we don’t want to go for any competition,” he added.

Promoting organic farming in Bhutan

The aim was to go for organic farming and for off-season products where Bhutan will have the advantage.

“Today in our country, every dzongkhag is planting everything and competing with each other. Therefore, why don’t we divide zone-wise, as per the temperature and product, so that they complement each other rather than compete,” Ugen Tsechup Dorji said.

Until and unless they have the commercial viability, farmers get discouraged easily, he said, adding that the government and private sectors need to work together.

It is imperative that agriculture, being a jewel selected by the government, must be treated like a jewel, he added.

“The entire government mechanism, all the ministries have to think as one and their priority should be agriculture, be it labour, finance, environment clearance or approval,” he said.

Bhutan’s advantage as a rich biodiversity hotspot

Bhutan has been labelled as a rich biodiversity hotspot with 72 percent of its land covered by forests – about 52 percent of the country is secured as protected areas and biological corridors, which is more than half of the country.  Such environmental protection is regarded as one of the most comprehensive in the world.

Bhutan also encompasses a representational sample of almost all major ecosystems. In line with this, the CEO of Samden Group, Ronrig S. Mututsang said that they have a number of agro projects such as: the coffee plantation in Sipsoo, Samtse, an extraction and a distillation lab in collaboration with Chanel of France, the National Biodiversity Center in Serbithang and a potato processing plant in central Bhutan.

He also said that due to the far sighted vision of the Kings and rich tradition of living in harmony with nature, Bhutan is fortunate to have emerged as a biological vault in the 21st century.

Over the past 4 to 5 years, Ronrig S. Mututsang’s company has been engaged in projects at research level in Samdrup Jongkhar and the northern part of Thimphu. It was a collaborative effort with the horticulture division and the Department of Agriculture for agronomics studies.

“In Samdrup Jongkhar, we are working and trying to commercially cultivate a medicinal plant with many farmers in Lauri gewog, and once they start seeing the financial rewards, there will be more farmers wanting to join the program,” he said.

Challenges facing commercial agriculture in Bhutan

The Chairman and CEO of Mountain Hazelnuts Pvt. Ltd., Daniel Spitzer said that some of the challenges facing commercial agriculture in Bhutan is the diverse growing environment.

With steep valleys and limited arable land, it is difficult to achieve production on a massive scale due to such geographical conditions.

In addition, other challenges include complex logistics and limited infrastructure as technological innovation is essential for efficiency.

Climate change is another major issue, he said adding that they are promoting climate resilience know-how among farmers.

Meteorological station networks are being deployed to identify regions at higher risk from the effects of climate change. Support is given to build irrigation systems in at-risk communities and selective breeding programs are also created.

Trainings provided for Bhutanese farmers

In partnership with the ADB and MoFA, 11,000 farmers were trained in Integrated Pest Management.

Another 8,000 farmers were given training on harvest and post-harvest solutions. They were also provided with a weather App which gives climate information in development.

According to Daniel Spitzer, 300 entrepreneurs have been supported with various trainings while 4,000 were given training on personal financing.

“Our vision is this, and it’s manageable and doable, but as long as we get together, I think it is the vision we can prove,” said Ugen Tsechup Dorji who believe in training and educating people in agriculture to create a skilled workforce.

 

This article first appeared in The Bhutanese and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.

 


Related Posts

Denmark to Support Bhutan’s Organic Agriculture

Bhutan officially launched the policy for organic farming in 2007 and proclaimed the intention to become a fully organic...

Oct 24, 2017 14:50

Gasa lives the organic dream

Organic dream to be lived in!

Jul 29, 2017 16:54

Demand for Bhutanese Honey Encourages Farmers To Take Up...

Bhutan’s organic honey is highly sought after for its fine quality.

Apr 16, 2018 00:31

Integrated Farming Popular Among Civil Servants

“It provides an opportunity for civil servants to participate in a healthy recreational activity and produce their own...

Apr 04, 2018 12:31

Eastern Farmers Cashing In On Watermelon Cultivation

Farmers said that growing watermelons is easier than cultivating other cash crops like chillies and potatoes, since...

Jan 28, 2018 16:34

Orange Trees Climb Higher in Bhutan with Climate Change

“Since the upper altitude regions are bearing more oranges than lower altitude regions, we believe it’s due to the...

Mar 25, 2018 21:13

Latest

News

Bhutan Lifts Ban On Rupee Note, Advises Against Holding Indian Currency In Cash

Bhutanese can now bring new series of INR 500 notes in and out of Bhutan.

Jun 20, 2018 15:17

Bhutan Joins Seeds Without Borders To Import Better Quality Seeds

The seed agreement covers a number of rice-based crops such as maize, wheat, vegetables, pulses and other crops.

Jun 18, 2018 17:40

Features

Tsirang’s Farmers Grow Broom Grass To Combat Landslide

Coinciding with the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17, the Tsirang forest division planted at least 10,000 saplings...

Jun 21, 2018 18:26

International Archives Day Highlights The Importance Of Conserving Rare Bhutanese Artefacts

There are about 30 documents at the library’s exhibition that include gold written scripts, which date back to the 13th century.

Jun 17, 2018 17:51

Sports

Bhutanese Sonam Rigzin Played As Goalkeeper For His Team ‘King Cobra’ In The F4F World Championship In Russia

Sonam Rigzin walked into the Sapsena Arena in Russia bearing the Bhutanese national flag to open the finals.

Jun 16, 2018 08:45

Off To Russia: 2 Young Ambassadors Gearing Up For Football For Friendship Event In Moscow

Young footballer Rigzin Tenzin and young journalist Kinley Deki Yangzom, both 12, will be on their way to Moscow this Friday.

Jun 06, 2018 12:27

Business

Interview With Bhutan Alternatives: A Social Enterprise Which Recycles Printer Cartridges

The firm also employed 17 female and 13 male employees from underprivileged families and high school dropouts.

Jun 22, 2018 10:55

Modern Beekeeping In Dophuchen Yields Much Sought-After Bhutanese Honey, Royal Jelly And More

Other by-products such as wax, royal jelly, pollen and propolis are also in healthy demand in the market.

Jun 19, 2018 18:12

Travel

Six Senses Bhutan Preparing For October 2018 Opening

Three of the five Six Senses luxury lodges are now taking reservations for travel starting on Nov 3, 2018.

Jun 21, 2018 10:01

Heat Maps Illustrate the Sacred Routes of Buddhist Pilgrims

In Strava’s heat maps, the devotional movements of tired pilgrims become blazing symbols of sacred geography.

Jun 18, 2018 09:32

Lifestyle

‘Do You Know Your Child’ A Popular Show In Bhutan Helps Parents Bond Better With Their Kids

Since its inception in 2013, about 264 Bhutanese children have participated in the show.

Jun 20, 2018 18:43

Mountain Echoes Literary Festival Returns On Aug 23 - Here's Why You Should Attend

This year's festival celebrates 50 years of diplomatic relations between Bhutan and India.

Jun 15, 2018 00:32

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!