Formal market access for Bhutan’s agri-exports to India granted

Export of agricultural products to India decrease

In what is a slump, in 2022 a total of 17,184.19 MT of agricultural produce was exported to India through the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL), the state-owned enterprise (SoE). This is almost three times less from the pre-pandemic season. Potatoes constituted 81% and vegetables constituted 11% of the total export. Other commodities like fruits, ginger and areca nut accounted for the remaining 8%.

In 2022, the company handled 19,147.43 MT of food grain items, which generated a revenue of Nu 947 million. It is a slight decrease of 9% and 5% both by volume and value, respectively. On the other hand, FMCGs increased by volume and value of 27% and 18%, respectively, compared to 2021, which was 17,909.06 MT and generated a revenue of Nu 970 million.

Under the school feeding programme, the company delivered non-perishable items while discontinuing the supply of perishable items like it did in the previous year. Nine non-perishable items were delivered to 500 schools, which fed 84,415 students across the country and generated a total of Nu 19.21 million as service charges from the RGoB. Although rural communities benefitted from the farm shops operated by FCBL, their operation led to a loss of Nu 18.50 million in 2022. Because of continuous loss caused by the operation of farm shops since its inception, all farm shops were closed down from the end of July 2022.

Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited was established on August 16, 1974, under a Royal Charter to centrally procure and distribute essential food items across the country.

It was later incorporated as a State-owned Enterprise under the Companies Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan on July 8, 1992, with the following mandate: maintain national food reserves at all times; trade in essential food and fastmoving commodity goods; facilitate the export of agriculture produce; and support school feeding programme in all the dzongkhags.

Currently, the company operates through one central warehouse, four regional warehouses, 23 district warehouses, and four retail shops. The agricultural marketing services are facilitated by four strategically located regional auction yards. In 2022, the company was managed by 342 employees comprising 226 regular staff, 12 contract staff, 91 under General Service Personnel, 12 under contract terms.

The number of employees reduced by 30% from the previous year mainly because of the closure of farm shops, which led to the retrenchment of employees under Annual Renewal Contract (ARC).

Staff Reporter from Thimphu