Thimpu (Kuensel/ANN) - Going by the information Indonesian government agencies are dishing out to the media, it appears bent on convincing farmers, as well as consumers, that imported vegetables are way overpriced, have high chemical content, and are no good for health.
At this rate, Bhutanese vegetarians might want to start eating meat, which again is mostly imported from India, and what quality is coming in no one can say for sure.
But the whole point of the government's drive is to get farmers all interested in growing greens as a viable income source, and reduce dependence of imports.
The country is blessed with three broad climate zones - from the subtropical south, temperate central to the alpine north - which allows for the cultivation of all the vegetables imported today, including the bulb onion.
The only thing about the bulb onion is that it has to be in the ground for two years to first get the seed that will give the crop, and our farmers don't really have the resources and the time to wait that long for a vegetable that is not really an essential in Bhutanese diet.
But if Bhutanese are not growing as much greens as they can, it is also because Bhutanese don't eat a lot of greens. In fact, stories of yesteryear indicate that making fresh greens part of the Bhutanese diet is quite a recent phenomenon, may be several decades old.
The only thing that might have been consumed in quantity and regularly would be chilis, cooked as a curry with cheese, or slightly burnt over the flames and stuffed with butter, or dried and powered into a fiery pickle or sauce, or eaten raw with salt.
When it comes to chili production, Bhutan produces enough of it but, because we eat so much of it, some quantity still has to be imported, agriculture officials say.
Many fertile valleys in the western and central regions also produce significant quantities of leafy green vegetables like spinach and lettuce, cabbage and cauliflower, which should hit the markets any day now, and make their way to the auction yards in the border towns.
But if Bhutanese hardly eat green vegetables, then who eats the almost 300 million ngultrum (US$5.5 million) of greens that are imported annually? This figure could get lower, if the cost of importing fruits is taken out.
A bulk of the supplies goes to hotels and institutions, like schools, training centres, monastic bodies and security forces. A look at the diet in schools indicates that it is usually potato morning, noon and night, day after day, with only a hint of greens.
It has been suggested that, to be able to produce greens for local consumption, it must be commercialised. This might mean large scale farming using chemicals and fertilisers to boost production. At the same time, there is already an initiative to keep cultivation organic.
Keeping cultivation organic and, at the same time, substituting imports is the challenge of the homegrown greens drive.
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