KATHMANDU, Sept 8: With the country's export-bound raw ginger stockpiling following a ban by India and a hue and cry over non-cooperation by the Indians, the only ginger washing plant in Duwagadhi, Jhapa also remains idle.
Officials say the plant can wash at least 50 percent of the ginger produced in the eastern region of the country and render the ginger exportable. Operation of the plant which can wash six tons of ginger per hour will not only add value to an exportable agro-product but also provide employment.
But a handful of large-scale ginger traders have a hidden interest in directly or indirectly obstructing the plant as they have a stake in ginger washing and processing plants in Naxalbari just across the Indian border, it is learnt.
"The plant was ready to start operating a year ago, but some large Nepali traders who also have a stake in ginger washing operations across the border are behind non-cooperation in bringing the Duwagadhi plant into operation," informed Hemanta Raj Bohora, secretary of Nepal Ginger Producers and Traders Association (NGPTA). He, however, declined to name names.
The Rs 60 million plant was built under the Ginger Competitiveness Project on a public-private partnership model and was handed over to NGPTA two months ago.
Arjun Thapa, a program officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), echoed Bohara's sentiments. Thapa, who was involved as FAO's representative during the development of the plant, said that established ginger traders feared for their own businesses although they had now been proved wrong. "The plant can wash at least half the ginger produced in the region," said Thapa adding that it was the first of its kind in the country and was meant to be a model.
The World Trade Organization had provided funding through the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) for least developed countries, to enhance the capacity of local producers and traders in the production and export of ginger. The project's support to farmers increased the production. The country exports ginver worth Rs 600 million annually.
During trial runs of the plant a year ago, the handful of established traders spread rumors that the plant could not be operated and that it peeled the ginger, making it unacceptable for export, officials informed.
Bohara also said the washing plant capacity of only six tons an hour was another reason behind the delay as it could not handle all the ginger produced in the region. Thapa, however, does not agree with Bohara, and points out that the ginger can be harvested over a period of time to keep the plant supplied continuously. "The harvesting needs to be spaced out," he suggested.
NGPTA has now applied to UNNATI, a program funded by the Danish International Development Agency, for another wash machine before bringing the plant into operation. NGPTA has already prepared tender documents for the purpose, according to Bohora.
"Importers may reject unwashed ginger; therefore its urgent to bring the plant into operation and export value-added ginger," added Thapa.
Spokesperson at the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) Shankar Sapkota said they have tried to address the issue of pesticides in ginger brought up by India by testing samples in labs. MoAD held a meeting on Tuesday to ease ginger exports and took a number of decisions, but bringing the idle plant into operation was not on the agenda, he said.