Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Escalating Cost of Paddy Cultivation

Development doesn’t necessarily bring prosperity.  While the cities and towns are flying high in their new-found opulence, far-flung communities in the dzongkhags are going dry.

And the increasing rural to urban migration makes the matter worse by scraping food out of people’s mouth.
Growing rice – the staple food of the Bhutanese – is becoming difficult, especially in places like Trashigang.  So, the cost of a kilogram of rice continues to rise from year to year, posing formidable challenge to the poor to put food on the table.

For a large number of people in the rural areas, whose daily income is Nu 125, Nu 75 a kilogram of rice is brutal.

In Trashigang, for instance, a kilogram of local rice costs no less than Nu 65.  The price has been rising continuously since 2008. In places like Rongthung and Rangshikhar in Trashigang, a kilogram of rice can cost anywhere between Nu 70 and 75.

However, government reports claim that production of rice in the country has increased over the years.

In Radhi, the rice bowl of the east, the price of rice has gone up as high as Nu 65 a kilogram.  Just about five years ago, a kilogram of rice did not cost more than Nu 37.  Radhi produces two varieties of local rice – Sorbang and Sungsung.  In 2008, a kilogram of Sorbang rice cost Nu 37.  Today it is Nu 60.  Likewise, a kilogram of Sungsung rice was Nu 45 six years ago.  It is Nu 65 a kilogram today.

And the price of rice will continue to increase due to shortage of labour in the villages.  Rural to urban migration has left no able-bodied people in the villages, which has triggered rise in the cost of labour, threatening the overall production of rice in the dzongkhag.

Currently, the cost of labour in Trashigang has reached Nu 200-250 a day.  Just a year ago, the cost of labour stood at Nu 150.

Apart from rural to urban migration, booming construction industry and availability of cheap substitute from India are the leading factors that contribute to increase in the price of local rice.

As land in the rural areas of Bhutan are increasingly left fallow due to shortage of labour, time may not be far when rural people’s stomachs will be stuck to their bones.

The only recourse, the farmers say, is the national dream – urban wellbeing and rural prosperity.

By Tempa Wangdi

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