Farmers seek Rs 9b in crop damages

Published On: December 17, 2018 08:46 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Agriculture ministry says has no funds

KATHMANDU, Dec 17: Last month, Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development Chakrapani Khanal reportedly received a report from the National Farmer’s Commission in which the commission had sought Rs 9 billion from the government to pay the farmers in damages for crops failure caused by various natural calamities. 

According to the commission’s report, farmers across the country faced crops losses worth Rs 9 billion due to landslides, floods, heavy rains, and drought among other things. 

A source at the ministry said that Minister Khanal is worried over how to arrange ‘such a huge amount’ to compensate the farmers. “The minister received the report seeking Rs 9 billion, but currently there is no way to arrange such a huge amount,” the source said.

On the one hand, it is almost impossible for the ministry to arrange such a huge amount and on the other hand both the ministry and the Department of Agriculture do not have the details of crop losses suffered by farmers as a result of natural calamities, the source said. 

The ministry’s spokesman Tej Bahadur Subedi, however, claimed that the ministry has not officially received the commission’s report and added that the ministry currently does not have much funds for paying compensation. “We have just around Rs 22.5 million for the purpose.” He added that the ministry cannot compensate for the crops losses caused by natural calamities. “We can pay compensation for crop failure caused by damaged seeds or plant diseases,” he told Republica.

Meanwhile, the commission has criticized the government for the failure to have a proper mechanism in place to keep a record of crops damage and to provide relief to farmers. The commission’s report also says that the farmers are suffering huge losses every year due to lack of or poor knowledge about crops insurance. 

Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry recently asked the Ministry of Finance for additional funds for the current fiscal year 2018/19 citing rising costs associated with implementing federalism. The ministry has sought Rs 12.48 billion saying that it needs the money to work at the provincial and local level.

Speaking at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on November 19 Yubak Dhwaj GC, secretary of the agriculture ministry, had said that they need additional amount to set up new offices, new labs and hire new staffers to implement federalism. He also told the committee that the fiscal budget allocated for the current year does not include a few ongoing projects, hence the funds are needed.

While the ministry is seeking an additional Rs 12.48 billion from the government, a trimester report of the current fiscal year shows that the capital expenditure by the ministry stands at just 14 percent.

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