When the blinds guide

The latest ones to bear the brunt of the agriculture ministry’s lack of vision and a paucity of information about a year or two ahead are the farmers of Haa and Dagana.  

For example in Haa, the carrots that are harvested now are fed to the cattle without a market. As there are no buyers, farmers, who are into carrot farming on a commercial scale, are worried about the worsening situation.

While it may be assuring that the Dzongkhag administration is working closely with the Food Corporation of Bhutan to facilitate the farmers find a market, the reality is that these famers have no time. Without a proper storage facility, the harvested carrots are, therefore, already turning into feed for the cattle.

A similar dilemma is what the onion growers in Dagana have been into recently.

It was only after two months the onion growers of Dagana were finally able to find a market after the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives made an arrangement with the vegetable vendors at the Centenary Farmers Market in Thimphu.

While the vegetable vendors agreed to buy the spice at Nu 32 per kilogram, farmers, however, are not happy with the price. They feel that the onions should fetch at least Nu 40 per kilogram.

More than 200 farmers in Dagana started growing onions on a mass scale in September 2020 after the agriculture minister encouraged farmers to grow more onions. This was after India stopped exporting onions for a month last year and the shortage hit the country.

The sorts of predicament that farmers of Haa and Dagana are now into is not just because of an excessive supply and limited market.

The main problem is that even without a proper plan or study, the agriculture ministry had been vehemently and in a zealous manner recommending or encouraging farmers to grow farm produce on a commercial scale.

In the case of onions, it was clear that India stopping export of onions was for a temporary measure until shortage within their country was met. The agriculture ministry should have considered sensibly whether growing onions locally on commercial scale is worth it when the imported onions start becoming easily available and come much cheaper too.

The problems that we see today could have been averted only if the agriculture ministry had planned things properly. Right after some times of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the agriculture ministry’s only solution to the problems then was to encourage farmers to grow farm produce on a large scale. Did the ministry even planned or anticipated what would happen and what it would do when farm produce from farmers across the country start arriving in the markets?

Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening today.