Promotion of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in Bhutan

As food safety issues are increasing around the world, the consumers are demanding safer and healthy food. Consumers are now more aware of the negative impacts on our health from consumption of produces with high chemical content consequential from unregulated use of pesticides and other chemicals. Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) is one of the agriculture production systems which ensures quality and safety of the produce.  Good Agriculture Practices, as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), are a “Collection of principles to apply for on-farm production and post-production processes, resulting in safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products, while taking into account economic, social and environmental sustainability”. The GAP supports the Department of Agriculture’s long-term goal of commodity focused commercialization drive and pursuit of enterprise development in agriculture through unlocking barriers in international trade besides providing safer food in local market.

The 3rd BIMSTEC Expert Group Meeting on Agricultural Cooperation held in Kandy, Sri Lanka also identified GAP as one of the nine Common Projects for implementation and already three rounds of workshops on GAP were conducted till now.

The Department of Agriculture adopted the GAP with the objective to promote sustainable agriculture that is ecologically safe, obtain safe products of higher quality and also to contribute towards achieving food security by generating income through access to domestic and international markets. The Bhutan’s Good Agricultural Practices Standard: Fruits and vegetables (BTS 30:2017) was developed and endorsed by the Bhutan Standards Bureau (BSB). Besides this, other necessary documents like ‘Bhutan GAP manual for fruits and vegetables’ and ‘farmers diary’ were also developed. The Department of Agriculture (DoA) has been identified as the Scheme owner and the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) as the third-party certification body in line with BhutanGAP standard. The piloting of GAP program was spear headed by DoA in collaboration with BAFRA, with the objective to certify products to ease marketing and capacity building of all stakeholders, in four districts of Thimphu, Dagana, Wangdue and Punakha on four crops viz. potato, kiwi, apple and local mandarin with the eight farmers successfully through the fund support from Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry ‘s (BCCI) BCCI-SWITCH Asia project. The selected farmers, gewog Agriculture extension agents and BAFRA officials were trained on the BhutanGAP standard requirement and other aspects of GAP implementation and requirements.

Potatoes grown under GAP requirement through this pilot program are sold through Bhutan Smart Shop, Babesa, Thimphu.The samples from the farms have been tested in India and the certificate issued by BAFRA in accordance with BhutanGAP’s requirement. Kiwi and local mandarin were also planned to be marketed but due to the month-long lockdown from mid-January,2022 the produces were sold in local markets by respective growers. In the near future, with wider adoption and increase in production volume, we are planning to sell the BhutanGAP products through multiple outlets with the support and involvement of Department of Agriculture Marketing and cooperatives (DAMC).

With this successful pilot implementation, we are now planning to step up the program for wider adoption in other districts and also expand in the currently implemented areas. In the longer run, the GAP implementation will help our growers to transition to organic agriculture which Bhutan aspires to achieve ultimately.