Stop paying lip service to agriculture

Published On: March 5, 2019 06:55 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

When Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli assumed office a year ago, he announced prosperity as a guiding principle of his government. People believed Oli as he has a two-thirds government and all outstanding political issues are somewhat settled. The Oli government completed a year in office last month and people have nothing to cheer for. Major economic indicators are on negative trend. The deficit in the Balance of Payment (BoP) is alarmingly high due to high import.

The latest report of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development shows that the import of major crops has increased significantly. We imported rice worth Rs 16.99 billion in first half of the Fiscal Year 2018/19. The ministry says import of agricultural products is increasing with every passing year. According to the data, the import of rice increased by 24 percent compared to last year. In the entire FY2017/18, Nepal had imported rice worth Rs 29.53 billion, up from Rs 23.87 billion a year ago. Also import of Nepal’s second major crop maize grew to Rs 5.19 billion over the same period. Similarly, import of potato, apple, fresh milk, vegetables among other products has increased significantly.

Rising import of most of the agricultural products from other countries even as around over 65 percent of population is involved in farming paints a bleak picture of the economy. In the annual budget presented by Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, he vowed to make agriculture the basis for poverty alleviation, reduction in unemployment and food security. “I have emphasized the need for modernization, commercialization, mechanization and the expansion of value chain in agriculture to build agriculturally strong economy by doubling agriculture production within five years,” the minister said. But it seems he has done nothing as promised.

The country can’t prosper until we produce at least basic goods like agricultural products to feed our population. The government hasn’t done anything tangible to encourage local farmers to continue to work in agriculture nor has it succeeded to introduce programs to motivate our youths to begin agriculture-based entrepreneurship. While a large section of population is quitting agriculture to join other profession, those who have been producing crops are compelled to destroy them in their own field as they either don’t find market or the middlemen give them lowest rate for their products and that doesn’t even cover basic production cost. While the prime minister is busy selling dreams, the finance minister as of now has failed to generate economic momentum. The government must get its act together to support farmers to produce crops, and ensure that they receive fair price for their products. 

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