KATHMANDU, April 8: The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has started work on a relief package for farmers suffering huge losses due to the lockdown.
The government announced the lockdown two weeks ago and a cabinet meeting on Monday extended it to April 15. With the lockdown firmly in place, most of the economic activity in the country has come to a halt.
According to farmers, they have been hard hit by problems in the supply of agricultural inputs, including animal feed. Similarly, they have been unable to get their produce to the market.
Last week, the government announced the relief measures for the poor and vulnerable who have been impacted by the lockdown as well as measures to support business and industry.
Hari Bahadur KC, a spokesperson of the ministry, said the ministry has nearly finalized a draft scheme on subsidies to farmers and plans to get it endorsed by the Cabinet meeting this week. According to him, the ministry has compartmentalized the various agricultural activities for the purposes of subsidy. “Small farmers who are into vegetable cultivation, poultry and dairy are under priority for compensation,” said KC.
According to the Nepal Hatchery Industry Association, the poultry sector is taking a financial loss of Rs 220 million daily. The average daily production of eggs has come down to 2.5 million units from 3.2 million. “With disruption in the import of raw materials, the production of animal feed has also been down and we are unable to sell the meat and eggs we produce due to a plunge in demand and transport difficulties,” said Balaram Sigdel, treasurer of the association.
Similarly, dairy farmers have their own grievances. According to them, they are selling hardly half their normal production. The Dairy Development Corporation and private dairies collect on average 800,000 liters of milk in the flush season, which comes down to 600,000 liters during lean season from mid-March to mid-September. Farmers now are selling hardly 300,000 liters daily.
According to ministry officials, each small dairy farmer is likely to be provided a subsidy of Rs 10 per liter. Similarly, the ministry is proposing to provide poultry farmers Rs 60-120 per live chicken.
“Although it is a challenging task to ascertain the actual financial losses in agriculture, the ministry is trying to figure who are the farmers hit hardest by the present unusual conditions and provide them reasonable compensation,” said KC.