Agriculture: Despite cyclone Phailin damaging crops across the country, last year’s paddy production is still expected to touch a record high of 88,000MT, which translates to 57,000MT of rice after recovery (threshing).
Cyclone Phailin affected farmers in Paro, Thimphu, Wangduephodrang, Trongsa, and Punakha, and a total of 2,162kg of paddy was estimated damaged in Paro alone.
Based on a report, the food and agriculture organisation (FAO) recently published, the increased projection is attributed to expansion in plantings and higher yields.
The estimated paddy production is also four percent more than 2012’s production. Taking the lowest market price for local rice, which is Nu 50 a kilogram, the production of 57,000MT of local rice means the country produced rice worth Nu 2.8B last year.
Bhutan imported rice worth Nu 1.2B in 2012, an increase from Nu 853M in 2011.
Although agriculture officials expected increased paddy production in 2013, they are yet to see the final figures.
Chief agriculture officer Chimmi Rinzin said production would either go beyond the projected target or remain as targeted. “But it would definitely increase,” he said, adding it will take another four months to affirm the increased harvest.
The increased estimates of paddy production, Chimmi Rinzin said, were made based on increased investment in irrigation and mechanism program in the agriculture sector.
“There is mechanised farming system today,” he said, pointing out that improved irrigation system has turned fallow lands cultivable.
Promoting high-yielding varieties of paddy was another activity, agriculture officials explained that increased harvest last year.
The chief agriculture officer said they have noticed an increase in both production and productivity.
Although heavy rain and strong hailstorm in Mongar damaged maize fields of 286 households, maize production is estimated at 81,000MT, slightly more than 2012’s production. With this, the aggregate cereal production in 2013 is estimated at 192,900MT.
Following higher production in 2013, the cereal import requirement for the 2013-14 fiscal year (July-June) is also estimated at 66,100MT, about nine percent less from the previous year.
Imports in Bhutan consist mainly of rice and wheat, which, as per the FAO findings for this fiscal year, are forecast at 58,000MT and 6,000MT, respectively.
Chimmi Rinzin said paddy production target by the end of the current plan is 90,000MT.
However, officials said the country doesn’t have enough land to cultivate to make it 100 percent rice-sufficient. “But we’re able to maintain 50 percent rice-sufficiency and our target is to reach at least 65 percent in this Plan,” Chimmi Rinzin said. “Cereal sufficiency will be met.”
Starting 2009, department of agriculture has completed 12 major irrigation schemes in the country. The plan is to implement at least 30 large irrigation schemes each year during the 11th Plan.
By Rajesh Rai