JHAPA, Sept 27: The government’s plan to test all edible stuff entering the country from India everyday at the eastern border point is yet to be implemented. Food test machines have been stranded at Kakkarbhitta and Birtamod, and the authorities are blaming the lack of human resources for not being able to make the best use of them.
Few years ago, the government had decided to establish food testing centers at the border points when Indian vegetables were prohibited in the capital city. But the plan is still waiting to be implemented effectively.
Usually, Nepal imports huge quantities of vegetables every day. The festive season has added pressure to the food market. Not only vegetables but fresh meat is also imported from India on daily basis. However, these foodstuffs are never tested properly although they were found to contain high levels of pesticide.
More than 70 percent of vegetables and fruits are imported from India to the agricultural market of Birtamod. Nepali agricultural officials have said that pesticides were found in Indian vegetables. But no step has been taken so far to test foods properly.
The major issue is that nobody knows what to do with the report that comes after testing the vegetables and where to submit the report. They don’t even know whether to send those vegetables to the market or not. The registration file of the food testing center shows that around 70 types of vegetables have been tested. Sushma Khadka, office assistant of testing center, said that they had started testing vegetables and they were also keeping records, but there was no use of those records. “We don’t know where to submit these records,” Khadka said.
According to Rajendra Kharel, crop conservation officer of District Agriculture Development Office (DADO), the pesticide testing laboratory has become useless in lack of efficient human resources. “Such tests are useless,” he said.
In Birtamod, only the office assistant has been testing the vegetables. She was deployed there after a 3-day training. Kharel further said that the center did not even have gloves, mask, and shoes that are used while testing vegetables. Pesticides have been found mostly in tomatoes, mushroom and cauliflower.
According to DADO, vegetables with pesticides from 0 to 35 levels in the testing machine are edible. The human body cannot digest higher levels of pesticides. Vegetables that have pesticide level of 35-45 can be consumed after storing them for few days and vegetables that exceed 45 level are not edible.
Yogendra Kumar Karki, spokesperson for Ministry of Agriculture Development, said that the ministry was working on the framework of the pesticide testing laboratory. He claimed that the Crop Conservation Directorate was aware of the need to make effective use of the testing machines.