Domestic winter vegetable production fails to substitute imports

Thimphu alone has consumed 504MT of imported vegetables during the second lockdown

The agriculture ministry expects to produce more than 8,987MT of winter vegetables in the seven southern dzongkhags to substitute imports, but currently domestic winter vegetable production in the country is failing.

Thimphu alone has consumed 504MT of imported vegetables during the second lockdown. Vegetables imported during the winter season are tomato, bulb onion, potato, peas, eggplant, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, and garlic.

According to the Department of Agriculture, around 303.01MT of vegetables and 41.31MT of fruits were imported last week and the data shows increase in imported vegetables weekly during the second lockdown.

Potato at 160 MT was the most imported vegetable followed by tomato at 83MT and onion at 78MT.

A total of 771.53MT of agriculture produce was sourced to Thimphu alone from December 24 to January 15. On an average, 33.54MT of agriculture produce has been sourced to Thimphu daily. From the total, 29% of the agriculture produce was domestically sourced while the deficit was met through imports.

However, Chief Agriculture Officer at the department, Namgay Thinley said that unlike a couple of years ago, most of the demand is now met from domestic production.

“The expected production of vegetables this winter is 8,987 MT, but the actual volume of production can be ascertained only after conducting a proper survey which requires time and resources,” he said.

He added that during this lockdown period, over 534MT of vegetables and 524,240 bundles of green leaves (sag, spinach, lettuce, etc) produced locally would be marketed all across the country. The local vegetables available during this winter are cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, beans, chili, radish, pumpkin, tomato, carrot, peas and leafy greens.

“For the Thimphu Thromde, over 148MT of assorted vegetables and 44,009 bundles of green leaves (sag, spinach and lettuce) were sourced from different dzongkhags and marketed to retailers in Thimphu Throm through wholesalers,” he said.

Meanwhile, vegetables like bulb onion, potato, and tomato were imported from India. “The green chili production is picking up and harvesting has started in the Dzongkhags. From mid-February, the local produce will be enough to meet the domestic requirements,” said Namgay Thinley.

Earlier, the agriculture ministry expected to produce more than 10,000MT of winter vegetables in the seven southern dzongkhags. Samdrup Jongkhar, Pemagatshel, Sarpang, Tsirang, Dagana, Chhukha and Samtse were identified to grow chili, cauliflower, tomato, eggplant, onion, broccoli, beans, and carrot.

The ministry targets production of 1,801MT of chili, 306MT of onion, 459MT of tomato, 973MT of beans, 57MT of bitter gourd, 87MT of egg-plant, 637MT of broccoli, 42MT of carrot, 1,705MT of cauliflower, and 30.6MT of okra on 3,826 acres of land in these dzongkhags.

Namgay Thinley said the requirement for vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, beans, carrots, chayote, pumpkin, turnip, green leaves (sag, lettuce, and spinach), coriander, ginger, bunching onion, and garlic leaves will be met from domestic production, but vegetables such as tomato, bulb onion, potato, peas, and eggplant among others have to be imported still.

“The warmer dzongkhags are now focusing on producing these commodities.” Cauliflower is the highest domestically sourced produce at 49MT followed by green leaves at 37MT and cabbage at 22MT.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu