Although significant economic progress has taken place since 1960s, the majority of the population remains dependent on agriculture for income and employment. The national per capita income is USD 540. As most rural settlements are far from the markets, there has been little potential for sale of surplus production of crops and livestock, although this is beginning to change with the opening of roads in the once inaccessible areas. The type of crops produced varies considerably, depending on climate and access to markets. Less than eight percent of the land is used for agriculture. Cash crops are maize, rice, millet, wheat, buckwheat, barley, mustard, potato, vegetables, orange, apple, and cardamom. Most people raise cattle or, in the high country, yak.

Alhough the vast majority of the population still farms, the agricultural sector’s share of gross domestic product has dropped to less than 50 percent since the sale of hydroelectric power started contributing to the national income. The department of mines enforces the government’s conservation policies that control mining and quarrying. Small mines, mostly in the south, produce gypsum, limestone, dolomite, coal, talc, marble and slate. Bhutan exports calcium carbide, wood products, ferrosilicon and cement. The other major agricultural exports are apples, oranges, cardamom, canned fruit, and jam. A new cash crop being successfully exported is mushrooms.

With the high precipitation and an altitude variation of up to 7,550 meters, water resources are abundant in Bhutan. While the difference in altitude provides many possibilities for hydropower generation, the main rivers are generally deeply incised, and irrigated agriculture is limited to areas served by gravity from small perennial streams. The power master plan estimates that the country has potential to generate as much as 30,000 MW of electricity. Since local requirements are still modest, the major share of the energy produced will be exported, representing a large part of Bhutan’s total export revenue. The export of power already provides 25 percent of government revenue, and the export of electricity is seen as the key to gaining economic independence from foreign donors. The government’s policy is that the future backbone of our economy will be hydropower. It is our largest resource and is sustainable, renewable and environmentally friendly.