Foreign dependence on agri goods shoots up

Published On: January 17, 2018 07:41 AM NPT By: Raju Adhikari

JHAPA, Jan 17: The country's dependence on other countries for agricultural goods, despite plentiful production possibilities within the country, has been ever increasing. The fact is proven by statistics of Kakarvitta Customs, which show that agricultural products worth one billion rupees were imported via the checkpoint in the first four months of current fiscal year. Similar is the condition of import from other checkpoints in the country.

Governmental and private stakeholders have been telling that there are immense possibilities of export of agricultural products from the country, but data tell a different story.  

The export figures of the Kakarvitta checkpoint are still hovering around in millions, whereas the import figures are in billions of rupees. According to Regional Plant Quarantine Office at Kakarvitta, agricultural goods worth Rs 837 million were exported and similar goods worth Rs 1.15 billion were imported via the checkpoint until mid-November this year. Officials of the quarantine office said that the import has increased in comparison to the same time period in the previous fiscal year.

Experts and pioneers of agricultural sector have been saying that the level of dependence will continue to increase if the situation is not given attention. 

"A range of agricultural programs has been announced, but they have remained just in names," said Prakash Khadka, president of Ninda Agricultural Cooperatives, Jhapa. "The programs have neither aimed at motivating farmers or increasing production capacity, nor are helpful for production. We cannot become self subsistent in this way."

The government had announced Jhapa as a super zone for paddy in the last fiscal year, but this year farmers of Jhapa had to sell their paddy in prices lower than the production cost. This year the government could not fix minimum endorsed price, let alone managing the market. Farmers had to sell their paddy in prices fixed by traders' syndicates as a consequence. 

Agricultural officials say that government's negligence in market management has been the main reason for the failure of agricultural sector in the country. 

"Failure of the government in managing market for produced agricultural goods has upset the production in the country," said an official from District Agriculture Office. "If the market was smooth and the minimum prices were fixed, the imports would not increase to this level."

Experts have been citing lack of commercialization of agriculture and proper prices of agricultural products as a reason behind increase in import. 

"The imported goods have possibility of production within the country," said Somnath Khanal, former agricultural officer. "But, the government policy of providing subsidies, fertilizers, seeds, irrigation and other facilities to the farmers is very weak."

Musuro daal is the main export of the eastern checkpoint. It is mainly exported to Bangladesh, according to the quarantine. 

"Cabbage, musuro daal, ginger, Amlisho, mustard residue, rice brand, and medicinal herbs are among the chief exports of the checkpoint," said plant quarantine officer, Suresh Kumar Sah. 

India, China, Australia, and Canada are the major suppliers of agricultural products to Nepal through the checkpoint. Pulses are the major import through the Kakarvitta checkpoint.

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