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Country Briefs

  Bhutan

Reference Date: 05-May-2020

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Favourable production prospects for 2020 minor winter crops

  2. Aggregate cereal output in 2019 estimated at above average level

  3. Cereal import requirements in 2019/20 marketing year (July/June) forecast below average

  4. Food insecurity conditions persist in most rural areas

Favourable production prospects for 2020 minor winter crops

Production prospects for the 2020 minor winter wheat and barley crops, for harvest in June, are generally favourable. The planted area is estimated at an above average level, supported by strong local demand. Since the beginning of the season in October, precipitation amounts have been near average over most of the country and the snow coverage during the winter months has been adequate to protect crops from winterkill. As of early April, remote sensing data shows above average vegetation conditions throughout the country (see VHI map), inferring generally favourable yield prospects for the wheat and barley crops.

Cereal import requirements in 2019/20 forecast below average

The country relies heavily on imports to satisfy its domestic needs as local production covers only about two‑thirds of the total national cereal consumption. In the 2019/20 marketing year (July/June), total cereal import requirements are forecast at 81 000 tonnes, 7 percent below the five‑year average. Rice imports are expected at 75 000 tonnes in 2020 calendar year and wheat import requirements are forecast at an average level of 9 000 tonnes in the 2019/20 marketing year.

Food insecurity conditions persist in most rural areas

Food insecurity persists mostly in rural areas, especially in eastern and southern parts of the country. A large number of households rely on diets with poor quality, mainly due to inadequate access to food markets. According to the latest data by WFP, as of February 2020, over 20 percent of the children between 6 and 59 months suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Aggregate cereal output in 2019 estimated at above‑average level

The 2019 aggregate cereal production, mostly rice and maize, is estimated at 189 000 tonnes, 6 percent higher than the five‑year average. The 2019 maize and paddy outputs are estimated at 93 000 and 86 000 tonnes, respectively, reflecting above‑average plantings driven by strong local demand and above‑average yields boosted by favourable weather conditions. Localized damages to standing paddy crops were reported in southern parts of the country, due to floods following heavy rains in late June and July.

The output of other minor crops such as millet, barley and wheat, is estimated at near‑average levels.

COVID‑19 and measures adopted by the Government

As of late April 2020, there were seven COVID‑19 confirmed cases, five of which have been hospitalized. The cases reported are two tourists and five nationals who returned from abroad.

On 22 March 2020, as a measure to prevent the spread of the virus, the Government imposed restrictions on international and national travels, prohibited large gatherings of people and closed schools and universities. The Transportation of goods and agricultural activities are authorized to continue in order to ensure adequate market availabilities.

There are concerns related to the effects of the virus on food prices as a result of panic‑buying, hoarding and the potential disruption of movement of food supplies. On 11 March 2020, the Government has imposed price control measures in order to avoid price spikes for several essential foods, including vegetables and chili. In an attempt to ensure the uninterrupted supply of essential items at reasonable prices, the Ministry of Economic Affairs authorized the provision of loans at a 5 percent interest rate for wholesale distributers for a period of a maximum of six months.

Within the overall umbrella of the Economic Stimulus Plan, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest has developed its own stimulus plan to alleviate the impact of the virus. To help the Ministry implement its stimulus plan, the Department of Agriculture and FAO have developed a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) on urban and peri‑urban vegetation production. The main purpose of this TCP is to increase local vegetable production and employ about 200 laid‑off workers from the private sector following the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.