Integrated Agriculture and Livestock Census Reveals Decline in Cereal Crop Production in Bhutan

โ€ฆ๐‘ป๐’‰๐’† ๐’„๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’ˆ๐’†๐’” ๐’‡๐’‚๐’„๐’†๐’… ๐’ƒ๐’š ๐’‘๐’‚๐’…๐’…๐’š ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’Ž๐’‚๐’Š๐’›๐’† ๐’ˆ๐’“๐’๐’˜๐’†๐’“๐’” ๐’Š๐’๐’„๐’๐’–๐’…๐’† ๐’„๐’“๐’๐’‘ ๐’…๐’‚๐’Ž๐’‚๐’ˆ๐’† ๐’„๐’‚๐’–๐’”๐’†๐’… ๐’ƒ๐’š ๐’˜๐’Š๐’๐’… ๐’‚๐’๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‚๐’๐’” ๐’”๐’–๐’„๐’‰ ๐’‚๐’” ๐’†๐’๐’†๐’‘๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’•๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’˜๐’Š๐’๐’… ๐’ƒ๐’๐’‚๐’“๐’”, ๐’†๐’™๐’‚๐’„๐’†๐’“๐’ƒ๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‘๐’‚๐’„๐’• ๐’๐’‡ ๐’„๐’๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‚๐’•๐’† ๐’„๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ๐’† ๐’๐’ ๐’‡๐’๐’๐’… ๐’”๐’–๐’‘๐’‘๐’๐’š

Phurpa Wangmo

In accordance with the World Programme for the Census of Agriculture 2020 (WCA 2020) initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the 2022 Integrated Agriculture and Livestock Census in Bhutan focused on various aspects of cereal crops. The FAO categorizes cereals as wheat, rice paddy, barley, maize, popcorn, rye, oats, millets, sorghum, buckwheat, quinoa, fonio, triticale, canary seed, mixed grain, and cereals not elsewhere classified. Within Bhutan, small agricultural holders primarily cultivate paddy, maize, wheat, barley, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa as their core cereal crops.

Crop production in Bhutan is highly susceptible to prevailing weather and climatic conditions during crucial stages of the growing season. Heavy rainfall, strong winds, summer droughts, and heatwaves often result in significant yield losses, leading to crop damage reported by most Bhutanese farmers. Although accurate and timely crop production statistics are essential for informed decision-making, policy formulation, and agricultural investments, generating precise data remains challenging due to the weather sensitivity of crop production throughout the growing season and harvest period.

The reported data on cereal crop production in this chapter were provided by small-scale agriculture holders during the census, except for paddy and maize. The production figures for paddy and maize were calculated by multiplying the reported harvest area with the crop cut yield obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL) for the respective gewogs (administrative divisions). The reported production data, excluding paddy and maize, represent the actual harvested yield during the census reference period. All production quantities are presented in metric tonnes (MT), while the cultivated area is measured in acres.

In 2022, the overall production of main cereals amounted to 70,168 MT, reflecting a decline of 6,319 MT compared to 2021, equivalent to an 8 percent decrease. Punakha, Paro, and Monggar emerged as the top three dzongkhags in terms of cereal crop production. Punakha harvested 8,321 MT, Paro harvested 6,472 MT, and Monggar harvested 5,971 MT of main cereals in 2022. Together, these three dzongkhags accounted for more than one-fifth (30 percent) of the total cereal production. The dominance of paddy cultivation was observed in dzongkhags such as Punakha, Paro, Wangdue Phodrang, Samtse, Sarpang, Dagana, and Trongsa, while maize cultivation was prominent in Trashigang, Monggar, Pema Gatshel, and Samdrup Jongkhar.

Paddy and maize are the most commonly grown cereal crops in Bhutan. In 2022, a total of 40,745 MT of irrigated paddy was harvested, representing a 2 percent increase compared to 2021. Additionally, 304 MT of upland paddy was harvested, marking a decrease of 123 MT from 2021. Among the dzongkhags, Punakha reported the highest yield of irrigated paddy with 8,059 MT, followed by Paro with 6,204 MT and Wangdue Phodrang with 4,515 MT in 2022. These three dzongkhags accounted for the highest production of irrigated paddy, with Punakha contributing 20 percent, Paro 15 percent, and Wangdue Phodrang 11 percent of the total output.

However, the harvested production of paddy has been gradually declining due to various factors. Urbanization and rapid socio-economic development have led to the loss of prime paddy wetlands. Agricultural holders are increasingly opting for economically viable, less labor-intensive crops, reducing the cultivation of paddy on wetlands. Despite government interventions to enhance paddy productivity, paddy growers in Bhutan face numerous challenges, resulting in a gradual decrease in the harvest area. The acreage under paddy cultivation is also diminishing as wetlands are used for growing competing crops such as vegetables and cash crops. Additionally, the number of paddy growers decreased from 25,336 holders in 2021 to 23,327 holders in 2022, representing an 8 percent decline.

Maize, another widely cultivated cereal crop in Bhutan, recorded a harvest of 25,918 MT in 2022. This reflects a significant decline of 5,021 MT (16 percent) compared to 2021 and a substantial decrease of 29,341 MT from the 2018 harvest of 55,259 MT. The major maize-producing dzongkhags in 2022 were Monggar, with a harvest of 5,133 MT (764 MT more than in 2021), Pema Gatshel with 2,005 MT (2,200 MT less than in 2021), and Trashigang with 3,678 MT (185 MT more than in 2021). These dzongkhags accounted for the highest maize production in 2022, with Monggar contributing 20 percent, Trashigang 14 percent, and Dagana 9 percent of the total output. Similar to paddy cultivation, there has been a decline in the number of maize growers, from 38,397 holders in 2021 to 37,707 holders in 2022, representing a 2 percent decrease.

The harvest of wheat and buckwheat, which have become popular food choices for urban consumers, experienced a decrease in 2022. A total of 770 MT of wheat and 1,133 MT of buckwheat were harvested, representing declines of 399 MT and 722 MT, respectively, compared to 2021.

The 2022 integrated census also collected data on the harvest of other cereals, including barley and millet. Although cultivated on a smaller scale, these cereals play a crucial role in ensuring food security. A total of 615 MT of barley and 602 MT of millet were recorded in 2022, reflecting declines of 242 MT and 520 MT, respectively, compared to 2021.
Quinoa, a relatively new crop introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in 2015 to enhance food and nutritional security, has gained popularity in recent years. However, in 2022, the harvest of quinoa decreased to 18 MT, 19 MT less than in 2021. The cultivated area for quinoa also reduced to 39 acres, representing a decrease of 62 acres compared to 2021. Furthermore, the number of quinoa growers sharply declined from 698 in 2021 to 331 in 2022.

The challenges faced by paddy and maize growers include crop damage caused by wild animals such as elephants and wild boars, exacerbating the impact of climate change on food supply. Despite the changing dietary preferences and increasing demand for wheat and buckwheat products among urban consumers, their harvests have declined in 2022. Barley, millet, and quinoa, although cultivated on a smaller scale, continue to contribute to food security in Bhutan.
These statistics on cereal crop production provide valuable insights for decision-making, policy formulation, and investments aimed at addressing issues related to food and agriculture in Bhutan. However, generating precise crop production statistics remains a challenge, as crop production is highly sensitive to weather conditions throughout the growing season and at harvest time.

Overall, the 2022 integrated agriculture and livestock census revealed a decline in the production of main cereals, with paddy production decreasing by 8 percent and maize production decreasing by 16 percent compared to the previous year. The report highlights the need for continued efforts to overcome the challenges faced by farmers and ensure the country’s food security in the face of changing climatic conditions and agricultural practices.

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