Vegetable, tea and coffee farmers in the eastern region have been expressing concerns from to time-to-time over the obstruction in export of their produce to the Indian market. They complain that the southern neighbor restricts their produces from entering enter its market stating fall in demands. Farmers rue that they are not able to export their produce to India though the demand is high. They lament that in absence of a fair import and export policy between the two countries, they are bound to suffer every year.
Bhim Chapagain and Giriraj Baskota of Republica recently reached out to some of these farmers and stakeholders in Ilam. Here are the excerpts:
Vegetable Farmer, Ilam
Our farms are excellent for vegetable production. However, if we produce vegetables without the guarantee of market for the produce, we bear loss rather than gains. We have been suffering a lot due to a fluctuation seen in the demands from India. One year they demand huge quantities of vegetables and crops from us but the next year they do not. This leaves us in a great trouble. For instance, last year, Indian traders came to our doorstep to buy tomatoes. Buoyed by last year’s demand, this year our farmers invested more in tomato farming. But, we were not able to export it to the Indian market as they refused to buy citing lack of demand.
Market is not reliable
Lila Devi Bhattarai
Livestock Farmer, Ilam
What to say about farmers’ problems? Nobody understands. You work hard in the field expecting some return. But at the time of reaping benefits of your toils nothing favors you. It is so pathetic. Right now, India is not allowing our produces like tea, cardamom, vegetables in its market. Because of such restrictions, hundreds of farmers are shedding tears. They have nowhere to go and ask for help. There is no guarantee of the market, they buy your stuffs when they want it and stop buying when they don’t want it. At least there should be trade policy that ensures fair trading opportunities for the farmers. We urge the government of both Nepal and India to review existing trade policy and ensure rights for the farmers.
Policies should be far-sighted
Both India and Nepal should come up with a policy, a mechanism that is far sighted and in favor of farmers and other stakeholders. It should be fair and practical. Our farmers are agonized. Farmers in the hill were faced massive loss last year and the year before that after India did not buy ginger and cardamom from them. India restricted those products at the time accusing the produce was adulterated. If traders have done something wrong then action should be taken against them. But restricting goods from entering each other’s market with unfounded reason or without proper investigation, serves no good purpose. We have been bearing millions of loss, as produces already loaded in vehicles are restricted from entering the Indian market. That kind of attitude is sickening. Both countries should work on it.
List exportable products
President of National
Farmers’ Group, Panchthar
Around 90 percent of people in Panchthar are into agriculture. In northern Hilihang and Yangwarak rural municipalities, people are involved in vegetable farming. They mainly produce tomatoes. These tomatoes were mostly sold in the Indian market. However, now Indian officials say tomato is not in the list of crops that can be exported to India from Nepal. They have restricted entry of Nepali tomatoes into India, and as such, our tomatoes are decaying. While farmers were selling a kg of tomatoes for around Rs 15 earlier, presently they are not even getting Rs 5. We need to review our existing trade policies, list out the importable and exportable products and stick to it.
Need for clear export policy
President of Ilam FNCCI
We have been noticing gradual increase of problems in the export of agricultural products since the last few years. They restrict exports of products sometimes for a week, sometimes for a month and sometimes even for months. Due to such restrictions, some our produce is wasted. This incurs huge loss to farmers and traders. We need to have clearly defined polices to secure the investment of our farmers and others related to such trades. The government must ensure that our farmers who produce quality products have a market that rewards them with appropriate return on their investment. They should be able to sell their products across the worldwide without any hassles.
Export depends on Indian official’s whims
Tea Farmer, Ilam
So far everything was fine for tea exporters. We did not face any kind of problem in exporting tea to India. However, this year things have changed. Through India, our tea is sold in many other international markets. Unlike in the past, from this year onwards Indian custom officials have been demanding guarantee letters, one after another. They are imposing rules that did not exist earlier. Since we have to export goods to other nations via India, we are forced to tolerate all the hassles. To summarize it, in lack of clear export and import policy, our exports now depend on the favor of Indian custom officials.