Food suf­fi­ciency

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

Food suf­fi­ciency has been a mat­ter of many con­cerns for the Bhutan. With about 38,394 square km of land in Bhutan only about seven per­cent of the land is arable of which only three per­cent is cul­ti­vated.

Ac­cord­ing to the food and nu­tri­tion se­cu­rity doc­u­ment, Bhutan is to­day 69 per­cent self suf­fi­cient in rice and other ce­re­als, and 89 per­cent in veg­eta­bles. Bhutan is nei­ther self-suf­fi­cient nor vul­ner­a­ble, but not starv­ing and Bhutanese fam­ily are able to eat at least two meals a day.

And while Bhutan has halved poverty from 23.4 per cent in 2007 to 12.04 per cent in 2012, the day brings with it a re­minder of the way for­ward. As a UN mem­ber state, Bhutan has agreed upon the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) of which Goal 2 looks to, “End hunger, achieve food se­cu­rity and im­proved nu­tri­tion and pro­mote sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture.”

As high­lighted by the UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon in his mes­sage for the day, “De­liv­er­ing on the prom­ise of the 2030 Agenda will not be pos­si­ble with­out rapid progress to­wards end­ing hunger and un­der nu­tri­tion.” Nonethe­less, the UN in Bhutan, through the World Food Pro­gramme (WFP) and the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) have al­ready, em­barked to as­sist the coun­try to achieve zero hunger.

An­other very im­por­tant con­cern is the mal­nu­tri­tion sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Nu­tri­tion and In­fant and Young Child Feed­ing study (2009) it was found that the level of na­tional preva­lence was 37 per­cent for stunt­ing, 11.1 per­cent for un­der­weight and 4.6 per­cent for wast­ing.

As per the re­search done on rice which is the main sta­ple crop in Bhutan, it was found that higher of rice would re­duce the pur­chas­ing power. An al­ter­na­tive ap­proach to achiev­ing self-suf­fi­ciency would be to in­crease rice yields through in­vest­ments in agri­cul­tural re­search and ir­ri­ga­tion. The model was used to sim­u­late the im­pact of dif­fer­ent in­creases in rice yields on mar­kets. The re­sults in­di­cate that a 110% in­crease in rice yields would help Bhutan reach rice self-suf­fi­ciency.

Con­sumers would nei­ther lose nor ben­e­fit, be­cause the rice price would con­tinue to be set by in­ter­na­tional prices. Farm­ers would gain and their costs of pro­duc­tion would de­cline, yet the pro­ducer price would re­main the same, be­ing de­ter­mined by the world price.

The ini­tia­tive of the gov­ern­ment to mech­a­nize the farm by us­ing power tillers pro­vided to each geog will have a far reach­ing ef­fect on the food suf­fi­ciency in Bhutan , The chan­nel­iz­ing of the lo­cal rice through the FCB out­lets will ben­e­fit the farm­ers on the long run and make a head way in food suf­fi­ciency. It is time for us to sup­port our own farm­ers as they are where we be­long.

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