Thursday, July 8, 2010

Food Security in Bhutan

IFPRI ran a conference on food self-sufficiency and security in Bhutan, with a number of short papers available here. The conference was called in order to compare food self-sufficiency and food security as goals. Census and survey data found that "food self-sufficiency is negatively correlated with all four indicators of food security," as is self-sufficiency in cereals.
The implication of these findings is some households may be forced into food self-sufficiency by lack of market opportunities, but encouraging household food self-sufficiency is not a useful strategy for achieving food security or reducing poverty.
In order to achieve rice self-sufficiency, it is estimated that Bhutan would need a tariff of 150%, which would also increase the price of rice by 150%. This would increase rice farmer incomes by 2.3 billion Nu/year while costing rice consumers 3.7 billion Nu. Investments that doubled rice productivity, however, would not harm consumers while increasing farmer incomes by 1.3 billion Nu.

They further estimate that current trends in production, land use, yield growth, consumption, and population and income growth would tend to decrease rice self-sufficiency until 2015 when diet transition catches up so that demand begins shrinking again. Bhutan would be 64% rice self-sufficient by 2050, up from 49% today and 43% by 2015.

The other papers provide a decent summary of the state of Bhutan's agriculture, further summarized below the fold:
The average person in Bhutan spends 40% of their income on food, about 60% in the poorest 20% and 30% in the richest. 20% of the food budget is for cereals, almost that much for dairy, and at least 10% for bakery products, fish and meat, and vegetables. The poorest eat maize (consumption of which decreases with income) and rice from the Food Cooperation of Bhutan while the richest prefer more upscale and refined rice and eat very little maize. The highest income elasticities are for fruits, dairy, fish and meat, and vegetables, and with economic growth recently at about 9% per year, they predict a large growth in demand for these products in the years ahead.

Doubling agricultural incomes alone would cut poverty in almost in half (30% to 17%). One of the primary hindrances to greater agricultural diversification is remoteness. Investment in infrastructure is needed so poorer farming households can adapt their production to increasing demand for these products. Imports and exports have been growing roughly in line with economic growth. "Bhutan exports oranges, potatoes, vegetables, and apples to India and Bangladesh." Rice is the primary import. Trade provides additional incentives, then, for farmers to move out of cereals into fruits, vegetables, and horticulture, but if remote farmers (who are already poorer) are unable to access the inputs they need, they could be disadvantaged.

The average farm is small (1.2 ha) and there is low adoption of modern inputs but there are very few landless, comparatively low land inequality, and concerns that intensifying agricultural production could have negative environmental consequences. Rice productivity is less than 2.7 tons/ha, low compared to Bhutan's neighbors. Farmers consider wildlife (25%) and plant diseases (20%) their most significant production constraints. Road access significantly affects productivity and technology adoption.

1 comment:

  1. This would increase rice farmer incomes by 2.3 billion Nu/year while costing rice consumers 3.7 billion Nu.
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