Sunday, 1 February 2009

Bhutan : 10 million hazelnut to be planted in Bhutan

January 30: Over the next five years, 10 million hazelnut trees will be grown across Bhutan. This project will be undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Sage Private Limited, a private enterprise based in the US. The project aims to improve the livelihood of the farmers, generate employment and promote environment conservation.

A memorandum of understating for the project was signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and Sage Private Limited today. It was signed by the Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho and Managing Partner of Sage Partners Limited, Daniel Spitzer.

Hazelnut cultivation is new in Bhutan. Except for some research trial plots in Yesepang and Khangma, currently there is no hazelnut plantation in the country. More than 20,000 acres of degraded, barren and agriculturally unproductive land all across the country will be used to cultivate hazelnut.

The Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho said it will be a private-public partnership project. He said the project will bring in multiple benefits.

“If this hazelnut project succeeds, first of all we would be utilizing all those barren, unproductive land, entire slopes, where at the moment there is no vegetation. It will not have any bearing in terms of land being used for hazelnut at the cost of rich production or other crops. It will be those lands which are not suitable for growing other crops. So the farmers will be earning some income from these land which otherwise will not bring them any benefits,” he said.

The first objective, Lyonpo said is to enhance the income of the farmers.

“Once we have the quantity and the quality that is required to meet the export demands, then it would also bring sustainable revenue to the government. One of the other major benefits would be the ecological benefits,” the Agriculture Minister said.

The Managing Partner of Sage Partners Limited, Daniel Spitzer said he wanted to introduce the project in Bhutan inspired by His Majesty the Fourth King. He said the scale of the project is larger than any other private investment in this country.

“Ultimately the market for the nuts is international export market. This is entirely an export oriented production operation. We will be building a world quality production facility and this actually will be the first pure export fruit business in Bhutan which means that we would be using the international practices, equipment and standards which I think is not established in this country. It is a great opportunity to penetrate international markets and to positioning of Bhutan as a producer of premium quality food product. But that’s challenge,” he said.

Daniel Spitzer said hazelnuts are used to produce hazelnut oil, chocolates and cookies and is one of the main sources of cash income for farmers in other countries.

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