The government says it wants to install pesticide-testing machines at all major customs points
PM Oli says pesticide testing was halted due to the lack of adequate preparations on the part of the government and lack of testing machines and labs
NC asks the government to stand firm for thorough tests and take measures to control entry of vegetables and fruits containing pesticides
KATHMANDU, July 7: Government officials have said the installation of well-equipped labs at least at the six major border customs points namely Kakadvitta, Biratnagar, Janakpur, Birgunj, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj is necessary to start effective pesticide tests for vegetables and fruits coming into the country from India.
Officials also claimed that the government has started a process to procure pesticide-testing machines and install them at all the major customs points for effective pesticide testing of vegetables and fruits coming to Nepal from neighboring India.
The claim has come as the government has been widely criticized for halting the pesticide testing of Indian vegetables and fruits being imported from India citing the lack of adequate machines and labs required for their testing.
Official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development said they had already consulted with the Finance Ministry about procuring pesticide machines and establishing well-equipped labs at Nepal-India border points through which maximum vegetables and fruits are imported to Nepal.
Tej Bahadur Subedi, spokesperson for the ministry, said they have requested the Ministry of Finance to release Rs 280 million to procure pesticide-testing machines. The machines will be installed at the well-equipped labs at the major customs points.
“The finance ministry has taken our proposal positively. The procurement process will begin once the finance ministry endorses the proposal,” said Subedi, stating that the ministry is seriously working to procure the equipment required for pesticide-testing.
Currently, Nepal has pesticide testing machines in Birtamod, Sarlahi, Kathmandu, Pokhara, Butwal, Nepalgunj and Attariya. But they are not well-equipped and it takes hours for customs officials to test pesticides in vegetables.
The government on June 17 had instructed its border authorities to test for level of pesticides before allowing in Indian vegetables and fruits. But it revoked the decision allegedly under Indian pressure on Thursday. Since Nepal lacks well-equipped lab at the border, customs officials were struggling to test samples of vegetables and fruits taking samples to other parts of the districts.
For example Birgunj customs officials have to take the vegetable and fruit samples to Nawalpur of Sarlahi. Some of the pesticide testing centers were left unused due to the lack of technicians.
Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Matrika Yadav said the pesticide testing process will begin at all customs points once new labs are installed.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who has been facing widespread criticism for abruptly halting pesticide-testing, said the government has endorsed the plan to halt the pesticide testing after the ministry came up with a proposal to that effect.
“When you don't have testing machines or centers, how you can conduct pesticide testing,” said PM Oli, speaking at the his party's parliamentary party meeting on Saturday, “We are going to establish such centers.”
Stating that providing pesticide-free food to the people is an uncompromising issue the prime minister said the government is not in a position to test pesticide level of vegetables and fruits both within and outside the country.
PM Oli admitted it was a bit hasty decision to begin pesticide testing in some places without establishing well-established labs at the border points. The revoking of the decision, according to the prime minister, was not under external pressure.
“Indeed, we are now not in a position to conduct testing of vegetables and fruits. And the decision to halt pesticide testing was not a surrender or under pressure,” said Oli.
NC demands thorough pesticide testing
The main opposition Nepali Congress has asked the government to take immediate steps for beginning thorough pesticide testing of vegetables and fruits coming to Nepal from India.
In a strong-worded statement issued by the party's Spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma on Saturday, the party said the abrupt halting of pesticide testing of Indian vegetables and fruits was the height of irresponsibility to public's health.
“Nepali Congress condemns the irresponsible act of the government that has greatly undermined the peoples' life and draws government's attention to stand for thorough pesticide tests and control goods containing pesticide,” reads the statement issued by the main opposition party.
Referring to the ruling NCP's ultra-nationalist slogan during the election campaigns, NC Spokesperson Sharma has asked why the party's nationalism rhetoric has been eroding in recent days.