Published On: December 6, 2020 12:42 PM NPT By: Dilip Poudel
KATHMANDU, Dec 6: A government study has shown that the pandemic has caused about Rs 12 billion losses in agriculture and livestock sector. Although the impact on the agriculture sector is relatively low, a study conducted by the National Planning Commission (NPC) found that COVID-19 has seriously impacted the agriculture and livestock sector.
The Commission had formed a team of experts to study the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. It has stated that livestock, milk, feed, egg, meat, grain and flower businesses have been impacted by the pandemic. Milk produced by farmers could not find a market. Eggs had to be destroyed, flowers withered on the field. The study report has not been made public. “Agriculture was expected to be less impacted than other sectors,” said a member of the study, “But it looks like the sector also sustained damages.”
Agriculture contributes to 27% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Department of Statistics had projected that the economic growth rate for the fiscal year 2019/20 would have been 2.28 percent if COVID-19 had ended in May.
As agriculture is severely impacted, the country’s economic growth will stall. The World Bank has projected the economic growth to shrink to 0.2 percent in 2020 and to 0.6 percent in 2021.
The study team claims that around Rs 65 billion will be needed to revive agriculture. “An additional Rs 60 to 65 billion is needed in five years to bring the agricultural sector back to its former state,” the member said, adding that “additional budget needs to be spent in coming years.”
The team has suggested the need to assist farmers and agricultural businesses hard hit by the pandemic. The study team has concluded that the sector should be commercialized using new technology to become self-reliant in agriculture.
Dibakar Luitel, program director at NPC, said that they are working on a plan to recover the agriculture sector from the damage.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) has also made it mandatory to introduce additional programs to reduce the impact of COVID-19. At present, the regular budget alone cannot lessen the impact of the global pandemic. Dr Yogendra Kumar Karki, secretary at the ministry, said that “COVID-19 has damaged various sectors and livestock for which a package with an additional budget is needed.”
The market for vegetables, milk, chicken and eggs produced by the farmers has not been ensured. The ministry has stated that priority will be given to those affected by the pandemic. The budget for agriculture in the current fiscal year is Rs. 41.40 billion. Although the government has allocated Rs 11 billion for smooth availability of fertilizers, it has not been able to supply due to the pandemic.
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