Food import value almost four-fold that of export

There has been almost Nu 7.9bn worth of food deficit in 2021

As the country imported food commodities thrice the value of exports, the food deficit widened by Nu 7.9bn last year, according to the trade statistics of the Renewable Natural Resources (RNR).

Bhutan imported food commodities worth Nu 11.02bn last year and exported goods of about Nu 3.14bn.

A rough calculation shows that food import value is almost four-fold that of export value.

This means if we compile the data on trade with India and third countries, we have imported goods of value that is four times more than the value of the goods that we have exported last year.

Bhutan has been experiencing a food deficit since 2013 and a food deficit worth Nu 2.6bn increased as compared to 2020.

Meanwhile, the major chunk of imported food items from India and third countries includes commodities like rice, fresh vegetables, meat, fish, dairy products, fruits, and oil, amongst others.

According to the report, about 93,733MT of rice was imported worth Nu 2.62bn last year, followed by semi-milled rice worth Nu 2.18bn. Semi-milled rice is the highest as compared to other rice categories like husked rice and broken rice.

Red rice worth Nu 0.01mn made the least export to India and third countries.

Import of meat including Bovine and Swine meat, chicken, and pork comes to about 6006.49MT worth Nu 1.16bn. Fish accounts for imports bill of Nu 454mn.

In 2021, dairy products worth Nu 0.092bn were imported into the country including about 1,129MT of processed cheese worth Nu 0.515bn and 0.03MT of fresh butter worth Nu 0.01mn.

Further, Nu 1.71bn worth of fresh vegetables were imported into the country. Around 6,069.67MT of fresh vegetables like onions and shallots were imported worth Nu 0.226bn, followed by 4296.63MT of tomatoes worth Nu 0.150bn.

Further, dry chilli worth Nu 0.146bn was imported in 2021. This is an increase of 194.75MT as compared to 2020. This is followed by soya bean oil worth Nu 1.63bn which is listed as the highest imported commodity, amongst others.

In terms of fruits, about 1,116.83MT of mangoes were listed as the top fresh food imported by the country, while apples and oranges have seen the highest payment for imported fresh fruit commodities as per the RNR statistics, which accounts for Nu 0.197bn followed by watermelon worth Nu 0.07bn last year.

As for food export, the country exported 6,038.61MT of cardamoms worth Nu 1.712bn, followed by potatoes worth Nu 0.50bn last year.

Export commodities to India and third countries include red rice, oranges, apples, cordyceps, potato, cardamom, and ginger, amongst others.

However, the major cereal crops grown in the country are paddy and maize. Other cereals include wheat, barley, buckwheat, millet, amaranthus, and quinoa.

The domestic paddy harvested area decreased by 23% and production by 25% in 2021 as compared to that of 2020. The maize harvested area decreased by 27% and production by 25% in 2021.

According to the RNR statistics, Bhutan has around 8% of arable land of which only 2.9% of the land is used for cultivation in the country as per the Department of Agriculture (DoA).

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu