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Farmers harvest oat in Bumthang. Oat is a valuable cash crop in the dzongkhag.

Oat: A valuable cash crop in Bumthang

Agriculture: Weaving of Yathra, cultivating potatoes and cordyceps collection is not the only cash income source for farmers of Bumthang. They also make a significant amount of cash cultivating oat every year.

Pema Tashi, 36, from Domkhar village in Chumey harvested oat last month. He said the yield was good this year despite destruction caused by wild boars. “I earned a gross income of a little more than Nu 40,000 last year and am expecting the same amount this year,” he said.

He pointed out that the money he earns by cultivating oat is a supplement to his annual income. “I cultivate on about an acre of land every year,” he said. Pema Tashi has been growing oat for more than six years.

Choki Dema, 23, also from Domkhar said wild boars ate most of her oat last year and hail  caused further destruction. She earned only Nu 10,000 from her harvest last year. However, without any wild boar damage this year, she expects to harvest Nu 40,000 worth of oat.

Pema Zangmo, 57, from Bebzur in Tang is also one of the oat producers. She grows oat on an acre of land every year. She earned Nu 10,000 last year and is expecting around Nu 20,000 this year.

She said oat yield is much better this year despite birds and wild boars eating some of the cultivation. “I have 20 sacks of oat and each sack weighs 50kgs,” she said.

Pema Zangmo said the National Research Centre for Animal Nutrition (NRCAN) provided sacks and seeds. “It’s a good source of income as they drop the money till our door step,” she said. She uses the money to buy rations and to conduct her annual Lochoe.

Most of the farmers in Bumthang grow oat for seed while a few grow it for fodder. NRCAN in Jakar supplies the seeds to the farmers. “They also drop the seeds till the road points and even pick up the oat after it is harvested,” said Pema Zangmo.

NRCAN’s programme director Jambay Gyeltshen said oats are grown as fodder and not for human consumption. Oats can be dried and saved for the winter months when there is  limited fodder for cattle. “We provide seeds and the farmers grow,” he said, adding that NRCAN buys the oat for Nu 25/kg from the farmers.

NRCAN then sells the oat to the dzongkhags for Nu 30/kg, which includes the cost of the sack. The dzongkhags distribute the oat to the farmers free of cost.

NRCAN’s senior livestock production supervisor, Leki Dorji, said seed producers in Bumthang sow oats in February and March and harvest it in July. NRCAN then de-husks, cleans, packages and distributes it to other dzongkhags as per demand.

Eleven farmers in Chokhor gewog, 37 in Chumey and 27 in Tang grow oat seeds. The oat is called Chungma in Bumthap.

Nima Wangdi | Domkhar

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