Nu 5bn worth of essential commodities imported in six months

The import of cereals increased by 32 %

Despite the government’s efforts to boost agricultural production over the years, the import of food products has witnessed an increasing trend.

The import of Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) commodities increased to more than 103,872 MT, which is worth over Nu 5bn, during the period Jan-Jun this year, according to the RNR statistics.

This is an increase of 32% of the total. The cereals include rice, maize, wheat, and buckwheat.

Rice is the major imported commodity amongst cereals. Bhutan imported over 50,921 MT of rice worth Nu 1.4bn along with other RNR commodities during the period.

 The report is based on the analysis of the import data sourced from the Bhutan Trade Statistics, published by the Department of Revenue and Customs. The volume and value of import of cereals by types from India during the period from January to June 2021 are compared with the same period of the previous year.

However, the increase in imports in the first half of the year was because the Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd. (FCBL), wholesalers, and retailers started stocking essential commodities in April last year.

The major imported commodities include rice, meat, edible oil, dairy products, fresh vegetables, and fruits, according to the report.

Agriculture and Forests Minister Yeshey Penjor said Bhutan has adequate production of local vegetables for domestic consumers.

“But for the grains, we do not have areas to be self-sufficient,” he said.

The ministry is emphasizing and encouraging the farmers to produce cereals to substitute imports to meet the domestic demands.

“Import substitution is still our priority, but still we cannot stop the imports of cereals especially rice because of insufficiency for domestic consumers,” Lyonpo said. 

Meanwhile, the total volume of RNR commodities imported during the six months grew by 2% from 101,394 MT in 2020 to 103,872 MT in 2021. 

Import of all these commodities increased from 2020 – with fish, fresh fruits, areca nuts, and dried fruits registering the highest change.

Meanwhile, the imports of cereals and edible oil decreased by 7% and 14% respectively as compared to 2020.

In 2019, Bhutan imported food including cereals, processed food, dairy, edible oil, meat, vegetables, fruit, and spices worth Nu 9.4 bn.

The total value of export of the RNR commodities grew by 23% from around Nu 2bn in 2018 to Nu 3bn in 2019. Imports of all these commodities increased from 2018 – with rice, meat and edible oil registering the highest charges.

The import of maize decreased to 15,924MT in 2019 from 21,759MT in 2018, a decrease of almost 27%. Maize includes seeds and other maize products.

The import of buckwheat increased to 122.09MT in 2019 from 120.56MT in 2018, an increase of 1%. Buckwheat includes seeds of low imported volume and other buckwheat for consumption.

 However, the import of other cereals decreased by almost 57%. The import of cereals decreased to 17MT in 2019 from 39MT in 2018. This is attributed to increased local production.

 According to the 2019 RNR census, the highest production among cereals is irrigated paddy and maize, respectively with 63,404MT and 55,254MT.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu