Food security and food self sufficiency in Bhutan

Nicholas Minot, Nidup Pelijor

Food security is defined as “the access for all people at all times to enough food for a health, active life” (FAO, 1996). In contrast, food self-sufficiency is defined as being able to meet consumption needs (particularly for staple food crops) from own production rather than by buying or importing. There is a long-standing debate on whether food self-sufficiency is a useful strategy to achieve food security. Supporters of this proposition argue that relying on the market for to meet food needs is a risky strategy because of volatility in food prices and possible interruption in supplies. The opposing view is that it is costly for a household (or country) to focus on food self-sufficiency rather than producing according to its comparative advantage and purchasing some of its food requirements from the market. This debate is reflected in the evolution of food policy in Bhutan. Early Five-Year Plans (FYPs) called for self-sufficiency in staple foods, while more recent FYPs focus on the goal of food security. This paper examines three questions related to food security and food self-sufficiency in Bhutan.