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Bhutan's Rice Production
Although rice growing areas decreased by nine percent, rice production in Bhutan increased by 58 percent between 1989 to 1997 according to an assessment of the rice research programme in Bhutan.
Titled "An Economic Impact Assessment of the Rice Research Program in Bhutan", the report states that despite the population growth, with the steady increase in rice production in the country annual rice imports had stabilised at an average of 33,000 (metric) tonnes in the recent years.

The increase in production, the report asserts, was primarily because of farmers' easy access to improved varieties of rice. Improved rice technologies had led to an increase in national rice output by 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes a yea

According to the report 15 improved rice varieties were made available to farmers during the last two decades. Two of these varieties were developed at the International Rice Research Institute in Philippines, seven in other countries like India, Bangladesh, Japan, Korea, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and six varieties, Bhutanese improved modern varieties of rice, were developed specifically by the Bhutanese rice research scientists.

Bhutanese modern varieties include Bajo Maap 1 and 2, Bajo Kaap 1 and 2, Yusi Ray Maap and Yusi Ray Kaap. Most of them are blast resistant.

During the period various improved management practices developed and adopted include weed control, application of inorganic fertilisers, and land and nursery preparation methods.

Rice availability improved
The report states that 68 percent of the households are now rice self sufficient while the average national food shortage is estimated at 2.2 months.
Food availability in rural areas has also improved, according to the report. For example, household level studies in Wangduephodrang and Punakha valley indicated that rice surplus increased from 13 percent in 1992 to 40 percent today.

Bhutan's rice areas
Bhutan's current rice area is estimated at more than 26,000 hectares with a production capacity of more than 60,000 tonnes.

Samtse had the highest rice growing area in Bhutan with 2,889 hectares followed by Sarpang with 2,839 and Punakha with 1,971 hectares. Production, however, was highest in Punakha with 6,274 tonnes a year.

Bhutan's three rice agroecologies

The report classifies rice growing areas in Bhutan into three rice agroecologies:

The high altitude zone of 1,500 to 2,600 metres with warm temperate climate
The medium altitude zones of valleys and foothills from 600 to 1,500 metres
The low altitude zone of the southern rice belt ranging from 160 to 600 metres above the sea level

Bhutan's rice production
According to RNR statistics, which the report uses, Bhutan produced 44,000 tonnes of rice in 2000.

Per capita milled rice consumption is one of the highest in the world at 167 to 262 kilogramme a year in western and southern Bhutan according to the report.

The report identifies low soil fertility, prevalence of pests and diseases, cold temperature, and high labour requirement as some of the major constraints of rice production in Bhutan. Rice related research in Bhutan is spearheaded by the renewable natural resources research centre in Bajo, Wangduephodrang.

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper


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