It has been too long that the mafia-controlled syndicate at Kalimati vegetable market has been cheating the farmers and the consumers. The middlemen who run the show have made millions at the expense of hardworking farmers and consumers in Kathmandu Valley. Vegetable and fruit farmers receive nothing for their hard work, compared to what the consumers are forced to pay for the same in the city markers. That huge gap in price is solely due to the complicated nexus of middlemen and politicians, who control, manipulate and fix price of much needed vegetable supply in Kathmandu. This syndicate must end. For instance, a farmer gets 18 rupees per kg of tomato in Dhading, just few hours of drive from Kathmandu, and consumers in the city end up paying more than 100 rupees for the same. This is not only outrageous but also deeply unfair to the farmers who work round the year on their fields to make a living. Moreover, consumers in the city are forced to pay such a high price for vegetable just because the middlemen want to make money in short time.
Our consumer protection agencies and the monitoring departments have been colluding with the businessmen for too long. Previous episodes of “random and surprise inspection” used to be pre-informed. The mafia syndicate at Kalimati market was furious after a surprise inspection on Monday night, and held hostage the government officials. This is a joke to our system and a perfect episode of what has been happening behind the door all these years: collusion, corruption and exuberant price of vegetables to consumers. This needs overhaul not just customary fixes here and there. Farmers deserve fair price for their hard work. People in the city will pay the right price for the vegetables. The middlemen should not be taking all of the profit just for bringing the vegetable to the city. A brief study conducted by Ministry of Finance had earlier found that vegetable and fruit importers were paying hardly 1 percent of the income tax despite earning huge money from the trade. Based on the same study, government has now made 5 percent tax in major vegetable and fruit import mandatory. This is not the first time vegetable traders in Kalimati obstructed government team monitoring the supply, invoices and prices.
This incident now opens up opportunities for local and provincial governments to support local farmers and cooperatives. Why don’t the local governments take up initiative to facilitate collection and distribution of vegetable products so that local governments, farmers and consumers all benefit? This will also eliminate middlemen from this value chain. The government has to facilitate all it can to ensure that our business value chains are quick, transparent and fair to everyone. It is now time for change in the way we do our business. We urge the authorities to stand firm against their anarchy and all three tiers of government must work proactively to end syndicate in vegetable value chain. We also urge that the government to not bow before this nexus. People will ultimately win, and our hardworking farmers will get their fair share of money from their farm.