Crop farming was projected to produce 20.3 percent of GDP in 1991. Only about 15 percent of Bhutan's extremely mountainous land was arable, and less than 6 percent was under permanent cultivation. Because rainfall and temperatures changed radically from one valley to the next, there were significant variations in the kinds of crops that were raised in neighboring communities. Most farms were small, with 90 percent of nearly 65,000 landholders having less than five hectares. Nearly 50 percent of those farms used terraced cultivation; another 18 percent were in valleys. Although banned by the government, tsheri cultivation accounted for 32 percent of the agricultural land use and about 3 percent of the total land in the early to mid-1980s.
The major cereal crops in the 1980s were corn, rice, wheat and barley, buckwheat, and millet. Other major annual crops were potatoes, chilies, vegetables, soya beans, pulses, and mustard. Horticultural crops included oranges, apples, and cardamom. Corn and rice were by far the most prevalent crops, producing 81,000 tons and 80,000 tons, respectively, in 1988. In the same year, a total of 51,000 tons of oranges, 50,000 tons of potatoes, 16,000 tons of wheat, 7,000 tons of millet, 4,000 tons of barley, and 4,000 tons of apples were produced. Total cereal production, however, only increased from 154,000 tons in 1979 to 205,000 tons in 1987.
Despite increases in paddy production, with 26,000 hectares under cultivation in 1989, rice was imported. Bhutan had once been an exporter of rice to Tibet, but its growing urban population plus the nonfarm immigrant and migrant population put a severe constraint on previous self-sufficiency in rice production. With a total cereal demand of 200,000 tons by 1987, some 20,000 tons of rice and 12,000 tons of wheat were being imported from India annually. Nonfood crops, such as jute, which was produced by fewer than 2 percent of Bhutan's farmers, also were grown. A small amount of tobacco was produced, with a reported crop of 100 tons in 1987, the same amount produced annually for nearly a decade.
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