Statement delivered by Hon’ble Lyonchhen at the handing over ceremony of KR-II 2013 Grant Assistance AMC, Paro, 16 April 2015

Today on this auspicious day of the Handing –Taking Ceremony of 239 power tillers worth US $ 1.1 million (Nu. 65 million approximately) from the Government of Japan to the Royal Government of Bhutan (Agricultural Machinery Centre, Paro) received under the KR-II Grant Assistance I am particularly pleased to have with us here, Mr. Yutaka Kikuta, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Japan in New Delhi representing the Government of Japan to mark this happy and auspicious occasion. On behalf of the people and government of Bhutan I would like to thank the people and government of Japan for their friendship and assistance.

I would also like thank the Hon. Speaker of National Assembly; the Lam Neten; Cabinet Ministers; Members of Parliament; Cabinet Secretary, Dzongdas & Dzongkhag Tshogdu Thrizins of 14 Dzongkhags; Ms. Asakuma Yumiko, JICA Bhutan; Representatives of Yanmar and TT; and Staffs of Agriculture Machinery Centre for coming to take part in this occasion.

 Like Dasho Dzongda mentioned Bhutan has been the recipient of KR II Grant for almost 40 years. Since its inception in 1984, the people of Bhutan have received 3186 power tillers as of date. Between last year and this year, a total of 391 power tillers have been received.

 Farm mechanisation has been instrumental in enabling Bhutanese farmers to increase their production of staple food crops, mainly rice, wheat and maize. More importantly, in the face of increasing labour shortage in rural areas, power tillers have enabled farm mechanization and greatly reduced the drudgery of farming. The utility of the power tiller is further optimised with its additional use for transportation purposes by farmers.

 Although agriculture is at the core of the country’s socio-economic development, contributing to 16% of the country’s GDP and employs 56% of the total population, the sector is faced with numerous problems – fragmented land holdings, dominant subsistence farming, inadequate irrigation facilities, non-mechanized farming practices, low productivity etc. However, I am pleased to share with you some encouraging statistics to give you an idea about the difference bought about by farm mechanisation (though this Grant Assistance) has made in our current farming practices – From a case study conducted by the Regional Agricultural Machinery Centre in 2014, there has been a 15 percent increase in the rice yield with the use of power tillers as compared to manual plough and the cost of production of rice has reduced by 48.8 percent. These incremental gains would go a long way in enabling the Royal Government to increase food production in Bhutan and meet its goal of food security and to sustain overall economic growth.

Earlier this year, the Government initiated the distribution of 70 power tillers to each Gewog under six Dzongkhags in the East (Lhuentse, Mongar, Trashiyangtse, Pema Gatshel, Samdrup Jongkhar and Tashigang ) under the Farm Machinery Hiring System.  And today we will be distributing 135 power tillers to each Gewogs for the remaining 14 Dzongkhags (Thimphu, Phuakha, Wangdiphodrang, Dagana, Tsirang, Chukha, Bumthang, Gasa, Haa, Paro, Samtse, Sarpang, Trongsa and Zhemgang).

Under the Hiring System, all farmers in the gewogs would be able to hire power tillers at a nominal hiring charge of Nu. 1400 per day.  As all of us know if a farmer has to hire people to work in their farm, they land up paying not less than Nu. 400-500 per day per person in addition to providing drinks and three meals. Therefore I would like to urge everyone to make best use of these facilities and help the nation to achieve our goal of changing the farming system through mechanisation.

KRII Grant Assistance enables the Government to strengthen the agricultural sector and enhance its performance. It has the potential to change and uplift the lives of more than half of Bhutan’s total population and therefore, assistance in this sector is deeply valued and appreciated, both by the people and the Royal Government of Bhutan. In particular, I would like to thank Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan for his positive response to my request to provide 1450 power tillers to Bhutan during my visit to Japan in June-July 2014.

On this occasion I would like to take this opportunity to express the deep gratitude of the people and the Government of Bhutan to the people and Government of Japan for its continued support to Bhutan’s overall socio-economic development. Japanese assistance over the years has increased and diversified into many sectors – development of transport infrastructure (roads and bridges), rural electrification, construction of educational infrastructure, human resource development, disaster mitigation, medical facility and personnel, support to local governance etc. – to touch every aspect Bhutanese lives of the Bhutanese people. Japan has stood steadfast in its commitment to promote friendship between our two countries and to Bhutan’s development efforts. Despite the economic difficulties and development imperatives that its faces domestically, Japan continues to remain Bhutan’s second largest development partner for which we remain extremely grateful. Bhutan on its part has deep admiration for the leadership role Japan is playing in promoting international peace and security through, among others, its ODA programs.

Tashi Delek

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