In the last 30 years, Japan has provided 3,592 farm machines
Come summer, farmers across Bhutan will have access to more power tillers to help them complete paddy transplantation works on time.
The Ambassador of Japan to Bhutan, Kenji Hiramatsu handed over 353 sets of power tillers and accessories worth Nu 137 million to agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji in a simple ceremony at the Agriculture Machinery Centre in Paro yesterday.
The power tillers were received through the project that was initiated in 2015 based on the request for 1,450 power tillers. Since then Japan provided 592 power tillers.
“We’re waiting to furnish the remaining 858 power tillers for proper and efficient use of these machines,” the Ambassador said.
He said that over the past 30 years, Japan provided 3,592 farm machines. “We can say that farm machines are symbols of friendship with Bhutan,” he said.
Thanking the people and the government of Japan, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that the power tillers would greatly contribute to the country’s efforts in farm mechanisation, which is one of the most important programmes implemented by the ministry.
“The machines we receive today will uplift lives of more than half of the Bhutanese population who depend on agriculture, which is why assistance in this sector is deeply valued and appreciated,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.
Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu said that his government understands the importance of agriculture to Bhutan. It is therefore not surprising that agriculture cooperation between the two countries has a long history, he said.
“Recognising this importance, Japan will continue to support agriculture sector in Bhutan,” he said.
Agriculture productivity in the country today is compromised by the lack of farm labour, which has substantial negative impact on household food security, the minister said.
Lyonpo said with farm mechanisation, farming could be transformed into cost-effective, economically efficient, more rewarding, and a less drudgery enterprise.
Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd (FMCL) was instituted a year ago to deliver effective and efficient service and optimal utilisation of farm machinery, meeting demands of the farmers and to encourage commercial agriculture.
FMCL today has 505 power tillers for hiring. The power tillers will be distributed to the hiring centres of FMCL.
FMCL chief executive officer, Karma Thinley said unlike in the past, these power tillers will be held at the three centres in Nubding, Drakteng, and Buli in Zhemgang.
“This is one of the lessons we learnt from giving power tillers to the gewog centres in the earlier batches,” Karma Thinley said. “There is a problem in operation and maintenance of the machines.”
The corporation has also requested for Nu 80 million in assistance to procure spare parts. “We’ll buy and keep the mostly used spare parts so that users don’t have to wait to buy these spares,” Karma Thinley said.
The corporation has employed 333 youth as operators of which 10 have quit.
The idea, he said, is to recruit youth as operators initially and then gradually hand over the operation and maintenance to them so that they can become entrepreneurs. However, it has remained a challenge for the corporation to get adequate applicants.
“That’s why we’ve to collaborate with the labour ministry on the recruitment,” he said.
The corporation has placed operators in more than 100 gewog centres. It is expected to open 65 centres by June this year.
Bhutan has received a total of 3,186 power tillers worth Nu 1.803 Billion from Japan Kenedy Round II (KR-II) in 25 batches since its inception in 1984.
Agriculture ministry records show that the country has received power tillers and other farm machinery from Japan through the KR-II grant assistance that began in 1984.
Until 2015, Bhutan received 2,795 power tillers through KR-II grant.
With the aid of the KR-II grants, more than 13,099 acres of farmland have been mechanised. Each acre of farmland that has been mechanised is equivalent to six people who would have otherwise been required there.
Agriculture officials said it has also led to a 15 percent increase in crop yield and 49 percent reduction in farm production costs.