Food import value almost five-fold that of export

Food items worth about Nu 5.5bn were imported in nine months against over Nu 930mn worth of exports

When the country is striving hard to achieve food sufficiency, trade statistics show a sober food trade deficit. According to provisional trade statistics for three quarters of this year, Bhutan imported food commodities almost five times the value of export.

Bhutan experienced a food trade deficit of above Nu 4.6bn in nine months, as the country imports essential food items worth Nu 5.5bn in September, this year including around Nu 930mn worth of cereal.

A rough calculation shows that the country imported food items worth about Nu 17.5bn and exported food worth a little over Nu 3.1bn last year.

This was derived from the value of imports under sections I, II, III, and IV of the Bhutan trade classification (BTC), which mainly consists of food commodities.

The BTC section on live animals, and animal products, which are further classified into commodities like meat, fish, and dairy produce shows an import value of more than Nu 956mn against the export value of around Nu 13mn under the same Bhutan Trade Statistics (BTS) code.

Import of meat and edible meat offal, fish and crustaceans, molluscs, and other aquatic invertebrates comes to about Nu 477.6mn until September this year. Fish accounts for an import bill of Nu 103mn.

In a span of nine months, this year, more than Nu 374.5mn worth of meat and meat offal was imported, while dairy produce including honey recorded an import of about Nu 469mn. Import of birds’ eggs; natural honey; edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included worth Nu 469mn.

As for export, the country exported dairy produce worth Nu 10mn, which constitutes almost all the export value of the BTC section on animal products. There are about Nu 3mn live animals’ export.

Of the total cereal import of Nu 930mn, imports of products of the milling industry, malt, starches, inulin, and wheat gluten formed Nu 176.5mn. Commodity-wise, cereal is the only food featured in the top-ten import commodity among vegetable products.

Under the section of vegetable and vegetable products, Nu 1.87bn worth of vegetable products imported was recorded. The export value of the commodities under the same BTS section shows Nu 492.8mn. The report also shows that around Nu 254mn worth of edible fruits and nuts, peel of citrus fruits or melons are imported. 

The country also imported prepared foodstuff, beverages, spirits and vinegar, and tobacco products worth around Nu 2.09bn, of which beverages, spirits, and vinegar formed Nu 286mn. In addition, sugar and sugar confectionery formed around Nu 114.5mn.

Between January to September this year, the country imported Nu 541mn worth of tobacco and tobacco-manufactured products.

However, in terms of food self-sufficiency ratio, the sector stands at 34.71% self-sufficient in rice, 72.27% for maize, 84% for vegetables, 92% for dairy, 44% for meat, and 100% for egg, according to Renewable Natural Resource (RNR) Sector report.

The overarching theme for the RNR sector 12th FYP is “Enhancing Food Self-sufficiency and spurring RNR Sector transformation while ensuring sustainable Natural Resource Management”.

In vegetable production, around 6115.24 MT of winter vegetable worth Nu 351mn was produced and livestock production includes 225,081MT of milk, 7,571 MT of Chicken, 595mn of egg, 15,363 MT of Cheese, 4,152 MT of pork, 8,151 MT of butter, 1,039 MT of chevon, 30,843 doses of frozen semen produced and distributed for dairy breed intensification program.

Livestock Mega farms reports show that about 45 broiler farms (3000 bird level), 15-layer farms (3000 bird level), and 57 piggery breeding farms (20 sow level) were established, engaging 167 youths and laid-off employees.

As of June, this year, RNR facilitated the export of 1,014,275MT of RNR products worth Nu 8884.49mn in the last three years. With Self-sufficiency for high-demand vegetables, the report states that around 66% was achieved for high-demand vegetables.

Further, Livestock production enhanced about 56,196.17 MT of milk production against the target of 55,171 MT (20%), 156.41mn egg production against the target of 154.8 million (10%), 2123.8 MT (258.8 MT BTI) chicken production against the target of 2636 MT (8.05%), 1189 MT pork production against the target of 1146MT (10%), and 211.25 MT fish production against the target of 205 MT (10%).

In addition, around 13 commercials broiler farms at the enterprise level were established against the target of 13 (10%), 161.73 MT of Chevon production against the target of 229MT (7.06%), 24 Layer farms established against the target of 20 (10 %), and 9.638 acres new fish pound established against the target of 8 acres (10 %).

A total of 47232 MT of apple (804.9 MT), betel nut (3127 MT), cardamom (646.8 MT), ginger (2284 MT), potato (37484.483 MT), and vegetables (2884 MT) were exported, according to RNR report.

However, around 17 products were sent to Singapore including quinoa, turmeric, ginger, and Highland honey 240qms, 3 products were sent to Malaysia, and 6 products were sent to Japan.

Meanwhile, Nu 3.6bn was spent against the target of Nu 4026.452mn as of 30th June 2022 with accounts for 90.3% of budget utilization, this year.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu