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’s Satellite Deployed From ISS Along With Limited Edition Stamps Launched To Laud Event

Live-streamed on YouTube, representatives from various countries and institutes gathered at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in...

Aug 11, 2018 16:08

Daily Professional Fee Proposed For Tour Guides To Boost Tourism In Bhutan

Such an initiative is also thought to help boost the image of the profession in Bhutan and retain senior tour guides.

Aug 10, 2018 12:09

Features

In Commemoration Of World Elephant Day, Bhutan Records 678 Elephants, Up From 513 In 2011

There are 678 elephants in Bhutan, according to the second edition of the National Elephant Survey Report.

Aug 15, 2018 12:54

Discover Raju’s Passion For Making The Traditional Bhutanese Bow And Arrow

The class VI drop-out earns at least Nu 8,000 a month by making bows and arrows.

Aug 08, 2018 16:09

Sports

The Myriad Of Sporting Facilities Constructed In Bhutan To Promote Healthy Living

The government in its 11th FYP report stated that it undertook the development of various infrastructure and institutions to promote sports...

Jul 29, 2018 08:33

Adolescent Girls In Bhutan Learn About Health And Sanitation Through Weeklong District Cricket Championship

The national nutrition survey 2015 conducted by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF Bhutan found anaemia in adolescent girls to be a critical...

Jul 21, 2018 16:29

Business

Start-up Centre In Bhutan Held Session To Provide Advice On Doing Business For Entrepreneurs

Guidance was provided during the first session on starting a business held at the newly established start-up centre at Changzamtog, Thimphu.

Aug 14, 2018 12:06

SDF To Develop E-Commerce Platform And Support Start-Ups In The South Asian Region

The SDF has already achieved and disbursed US$ 47mn for 12 cross-border projects.

Jul 24, 2018 09:03

Travel

About 91 % Of International Visitors Intend To Revisit Bhutan And 85 % Want To Recommend Nation Of Happiness To Others

The majority (80.4 %) of the international visitors expressed that the culture and traditional charm attracted them to Bhutan.

Aug 13, 2018 12:11

DrukAir To Fly Between Bhutan And Singapore Via Guwahati Starting Sept 1

The new flight will connect Paro to Singapore via Guwahati.

Aug 09, 2018 10:37

Lifestyle

Gokab – The First Dance Studio To Be Registered In Bhutan For Dancing Enthusiasts

Gokab, a youth group comprising of mostly dance enthusiasts, has seen a healthy growth of membership numbers since its inception in 2015.

Aug 12, 2018 15:44

Red Rice Is Bhutan's Staple Food And This Brewery Has Turned It Into Its Flagship Beer

Namgay Artisanal Brewery is the new kid on the block and it’s got everyone talking about its red rice lager.

Aug 03, 2018 14:04

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!