The government has allocated Rs 41.4 billion for the agriculture sector in this year’s budget. Many had high expectations that the new budget would be a dramatic departure from the past and make bold decisions to allocate more budget in agriculture. However, the share of agriculture budget to the total budget stands at 2.8 percent. Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MOALD) is receiving only Rs 37.40 billion to conduct agriculture-related programs. Compared to the ambitious programs that the government has put forth, the amount is far less to meet the necessary expenses. Of the budget, Rs 2.62 billion will go to provinces, Rs 5.44 billion will go to local governments and Rs 4 billion has been separated under the heading of the financial management of the loan that the World Bank and International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) will be providing for the country’s farming sector. Rs 11 billion has been set aside for the subsidy in fertilizers.
Agriculture in Nepal has slow growth over a protracted period despite a number of policies and strategic approaches being followed in the past. The Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP), unveiled in 1995 with a 20‐year vision, adopted a Green Revolution‐type approach based on massive investments on key inputs such as irrigation, fertilizers and rural roads to be focused on high potential areas. Based on it, the Government of Nepal (GoN) has formulated several broader policy frameworks since then. Of these, Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS) and National Agriculture Policy 2061 (NAP 2004) remain main policy documents to date. All these policies are judged to be sound in design but have suffered greatly in implementation. In many cases, they lacked the supporting legislation and resources for implementation.
Although the COVID-2019 epidemic is primarily a public health crisis, its impact on other sectors including the agriculture supply chain has started to be visible. The outbreak has already caused significant economic disruption around the world and is likely to continue to do so for some length of time. Regarding agriculture, it has an effect on both the supply-side and the demand side. Restrictions on the movement of goods and people have significant socio-economic repercussions on people's livelihoods. They often lead to disruption of market chains and trade of agricultural products, with significant potential impacts on the populations that depend on them for their livelihoods and their food and nutrition security. Supply chain management (SCM) in agriculture implies managing the relationships between the businesses responsible for the efficient production and supply of products from the farm level to the consumers.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is primarily a public health crisis, experts are now voicing their concerns that the virus could have a much broader impact on the global economy. The UN's trade and development agency says the slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak could cost the global economy up to two trillion dollars this year. It will certainly impact agriculture as well. Some agriculture experts and entrepreneurs have made some observations that social distancing, reduced social and religious functions, minimizing travel, avoiding crowds, closures, and other protective practices will have impact on markets and prices of food items, dairy products, meat, flowers, and ornamental plants. There is a supply chain slowdown affecting the transportation of fertilizer, fuel, and other production inputs.
Agronomy, livestock and horticulture are the three major sub-sectors of agriculture. If we review past developmental efforts of Nepali agriculture, we find that agronomy (a branch of agriculture dealing with field-crop production) was on the top priority in terms of public sector investment and human resource development followed by livestock.
Nepalis celebrate Maghe Sakranti (first day of Magh) by consuming different tuber crops mainly yam and sweet potato. They did so this year too. Normally, people boil the yams in the evening of the last day of Poush and relish them the next morning with ghee and chaku. Generally, sesame seed Laddus, molasses, ghee, sweet potatoes and yam are included in the menu. It is widely believed that the boiled yams taken on the morning of Maghe Sakranti staves off cold-related ailments. People in Kathmandu also celebrate this festival with delicacies made from yam, ghee and chaku. That is why mountains of yams are seen in Kalimati and Balkhu wholesale markets every year during Maghe Sakranti. It has also a cultural and religious importance in Nepali society.
Onion is an important vegetable crop in Nepal and it can be grown in all districts. Physiologically, it is a long-day plant and is normally planted in October/November and harvested in May/June. Per capita consumption of onion in Nepal is 7.7 kg, which is far below the world average of 10.8 kg. Even then the domestic production is not sufficient to meet the demand of the country resulting in unavoidable import.
There are numerous opportunities in agriculture for generating employment and income. It is mainly because of varied agro-climatic conditions prevailed in the country. Agriculture presents the highest potential for growth and poverty reduction for the vast majority of rural people provided it is commercialized. But its practices in Nepal are still traditional. This situation has led to slow pace of agricultural commercialization.
Using the sun to dry crops and grain is one of the oldest applications of solar energy in agriculture. These days, solar energy can be used in agriculture in a number of ways. It saves money, increases self-reliance, and reduces pollution. Solar panels can be used to power an irrigation pump which can then be used to pump water for irrigation. Solar dehydrators are another type of solar technology used in the agriculture industry. Solar drying equipment can dry crops faster and more evenly than leaving them in the field after harvest. Solar energy can help farmers reduce their costs and improve their efficiency and self-reliance. That is why many farmers around the world prefer to implement solar technologies on their farms. Solar farming is not only cost effective but also environment-friendly and reliable. Use of solar energy can also be helpful for reducing the drudgery of women farmers.
Nepal is a food deficit country, importing both cereals and high-value agriculture commodities due mainly to slow agricultural growth rates. The government’s commitment to check the country’s ever widening trade deficit by boosting farm production is difficult to achieve unless implementation is improved.
Agriculture needs to be modernized and commercialized to ensure the country’s sustainable food security. This is only possible if we can attract young people to farming. They bring energy, vitality, and innovation into the farming system. They prefer to be engaged in high-tech, high-risk and high-returns agri-ventures like protected agriculture, precision farming, floriculture, poultry, and dairy. In the most adverse and risky situations, young people have extraordinary resilience and ability to cope. So they are an ideal catalyst to change the poor image of Nepali agriculture given their greater possibility to adapt new ideas, concepts and technologies. According to the National Youth Policy 2015, youths are described those between the ages 16-40. Approximately 40 percent of the total population of Nepal falls under this category. This situation can serve as a demographic strength for Nepali agriculture.
It is more than six decades since Nepal started planning process for development. In six decades, nine five-year plans and five three-year plans have been implemented. In case of agriculture, the first long term plan (Agriculture Perspective Plan) was implemented from 1995 to 2015 and the second one (Agriculture Development Strategy) is at its third year of implementation.