Experts say growth target impossible to meet going by country’s records
KATHMANDU, July 29: The Ministry of Agriculture Development has said that to achieve the target of doubling agricultural produce in five years, which the government has stated in its annual budget for the Fiscal Year 2018/19, a growth rate of 15 percent has to be achieved on every agricultural product.
However, knowledgeable sources have said that it is impossible to achieve 15 percent growth in agricultural products annually and to double the production within five years.
According to economist Keshav Acharya, both the government and farmers have to consistently make serious efforts to achieve this target. “If the target is achieved, it will be a rare achievement in the world,” Acharya told Republica.
“There are very few examples in the world where any country has achieved 15 percent annual growth in agricultural products,” Acharya said, adding that a huge revolution was needed in the country, like the green revolution of India, to achieve that target.
“Agriculture sector is unlike any other industry. It may not give the targeted result as per one’s expectation,” Acharya added. “A good result in agriculture needs suitable land, climate, environment, inputs, irrigation and other requirements. You cannot expect instant result from agriculture, it needs patience.”
He however said that if the government could invest on high-value goods in association with farmers, then somehow the target might be achieved. “Commitment from both government and farmers is necessary,” he said, adding that the country has never achieved such target in the past.
The ministry data shows that farm output has doubled only over the period of a decade in the recent past.
Total agricultural output in the Fiscal Year 2008/09 was Rs 414 billion, and it is expected to reach close to Rs 1,000 billion in the previous fiscal year. However, the target, if achieved, could significantly lower the soaring import of agricultural products, which was above Rs 100 billion in FY 2016/17.
Currently, the country is producing 5.1 million tons of paddy annually, while the demand is 5.8 million tons. Similarly, annual production of maize is 2.2 million tons while the demand is 2.5 million tons. Meanwhile, annual production of fruits is 1 million tons that is only 40 percent of the market demand.
The country produces 3.6 million tons of vegetables every year. The ministry has claimed that the country is almost self-sufficient in onion, garlic and potatoes (except to be used for potato chips).
Speaking with Republica recently, former finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat had said that doubling of agriculture output was nowhere near possible. He had then suggested that the government should rather have set growth targets in industrial production.
Bhairab Raj Kaini, former director general of the Department of Agriculture, has claimed that while the provincial and local units, who are responsible to implement the government’s plan, are dillydallying on their organizational structure and work responsibility, it was difficult to achieve the government’s target.
“The major components for development of agro products are irrigation, fertilizer, and seeds. At the present, we cannot see any progress on all these inputs,” he said. “Without these three components growth in agro products is not possible.”
“Looking at the country’s records, the highest growth rate in the agricultural sector has been 4.95 so far. Rather than focusing on growth, the government would do better if it concentrated on overall improvement of the agricultural sector,” Kaini added.