Country cannot move ahead when it has to import food items worth Rs 350 billion: FinMin Sharma

Published On: June 20, 2022 07:00 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, June 20: Minister for Finance Janardan Sharma has said that Nepal being an agriculture-oriented country cannot head towards development while continuing to import Rs 350 billion worth of food items from outside the country.

Speaking at parliament on Monday, Minister Sharma said that the country's policies and programs for the upcoming year has prioritized the country’s production sector. He said that the country cannot be developed while importing food items worth over Rs 350 billion. 

Minister Sharma said that government offices have a policy of using domestically produced goods rather than foreign imported goods. He also urged all people to use of Nepali biscuits in various meetings of government offices. 

He said, "We have made a policy of eating only Nepali biscuits in government offices. "We are eating foreign biscuits. From now on, we should eat Nepali biscuits. Food worth Rs 350 billion is being imported to Nepal annually. Can an agriculture oriented country build a country if it consumes 350 billion rupees worth of food imported from abroad? Therefore, the current policy and program has been brought about by giving priority to the production of the country,” he said.

Finance Minister Sharma also said that the recent rise in prices of petroleum products was not due to the government but to the problems in the international price chain and the impact of the wars at the international level. 

Minister Sharma also said that the price of edible oil has gone up due to the impact of international events. He said that the price of edible oil has gone up as the import of raw materials from Ukraine and Russia has stopped. He said that it is necessary to become self-sufficient in oil by increasing the production of mustard as it grows all over the country.

He said that the government has a policy of reducing imports by 30 percent in the first year to curb the annual import of over Rs 3.5 trillion. He said that the government's economic policy for the coming fiscal year has allocated seeds, technology and funds for self-reliance in paddy next year. He said that the government has a policy of gradually reducing the import of bananas and apples within three years.

Minister Sharma said, "Oil prices have gone up. Did we increase it? We are worried. The dollar is depreciating. Our money is going out. That's where all the dollars go. The price of oil has reached Rs 199 per liter. Problems in the international price chain are rising due to the effects of international wars. So, we have to be self-reliant here. Mustard seeds come from Ukraine and Russia. The price of oil went up after it stopped coming. So we must start sowing our own mustards.”

Minister Sharma urged the committee to monitor the industries and not limit the discussion on what has changed in the country due to the exemption given by the government on sponge iron. He questioned the government's decision to bring sponge iron to make plates in Nepal and to expand the industry, saying it was wrong and not in the interest of the country. Minister Sharma said that the industry has been set up with an investment of crores of rupees to make 15 to 20 more industrial plates due to the customs exemption given by the government on sponge iron. He said that Nepal was no longer self-sufficient in iron ore but also reduced the trade deficit by exporting.

He claimed that the government has brought forward an industry-friendly policy as there is an arrangement to provide an eight percent subsidy to the exporting industries from the next fiscal year. Finance Minister Sharma said that he is confident that big industries will be added in Nepal as the government has introduced a policy of giving 2 to 15 percent discount on electricity depending on the production and export of goods.

In addition, he said that farmers should be able to bring the fertilizer easily when they bring it. He directed the Director General of the Customs Department to immediately facilitate any farmer who has brought manure and was stopped at the customs. He said that if the fertilizer required by the government was brought by the farmers themselves then no one should auction it.

He said, "Farmers should be able to bring their own fertilizer. If the fertilizers brought by the farmer are stopped at the customs, please listen to the director general of customs. No one can auction the manure brought by the farmers. The government should give it to the farmers. If the government does not have it, let the farmers bring it. It is for the benefit of the country. The main goal of the government now is to make the industry flourish in Nepal.”

Furthermore, Minister Sharma said that the main objective of the government now is to develop and expand the domestic industries. He claimed that the government had brought the policy in line with the main objective. Minister Sharma said that the results of the industry-friendly policy brought by the government would be seen within the next five years.


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