KATHMANDU, March 18: The government has stopped providing permit to import food items from eight countries that have been listed in high risk for coronavirus.
According to the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), it has stopped providing the permit to import edibles from China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, France, Germany, and Spain.
Based on the growing threat of coronavirus, the government since last week has suspended on-arrival visa facility for nationals of these eight countries in particular. “For now, we have stopped issuing license to traders who import edible commodities from these countries,” Mohan Krishna Maharjan, the spokesperson for the department, told Republica.
The coronavirus outbreak, which emerged from China around two months ago, has now gripped number of countries in other regions including Europe where it is spreading fast. The COVID-19 is reported to have affected large number of people, while killing hundreds in the European countries of late.
On the wake of the fast spreading disease, the government has also adopted number of preventive measures while it is mulling over going to the extent of complete lockdown the country if it is deemed necessary. “The government has restricted the flow of food items from the high-risk countries for now to minimize the risk of the widespread COVID-19 inside the country," said Maharjan.
The statistics of the Department of Customs shows that the eight countries in the restricted list are among top 20 suppliers of commodities to Nepal. In Fiscal Year 2018/19, Nepal imported goods worth Rs 19.85 billion from France – the fourth largest supplier of commodities to Nepal after India, China and the United Arab Emirates.
According to Maharjan, the department took the step following a circular issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development on March 11. “The ministry has also forwarded similar directions to the authorities that look after import of plant and livestock related products,” said Maharjan. He added that the department has already sent letters to the organizations of private sectors, including the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, to abide by the government decision.
Nepal imports most of the essentials from India. Biscuits, noodles, confectionery, dry meat, sausage and fruit juice are among others packed foods that are imported from the aforementioned countries.
According to the DFTQC, apart from packed food items, traders import apple, garlic and monosodium glutamate from China. “The government decision could affect domestic food processing industries for the time being,” Maharjan said.
He said that the government, however, has permitted traders to bring edibles which are already in the import process. “The government will allow imported foods that have been dispatched from the exporting countries only after conducting strict quarantine check,” Maharjan added.