KATHMANDU, June 2: The government claims to have facilitated domestic agricultural production to increase employment opportunities, but the budget allocation for the sector might not help meet the government targets, say agricultural analysts.
The government through the budget for 2020/21 has earmarked Rs 41.40 billion for agriculture while Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada in parliament on Monday claimed that the sector will receive Rs 80 billion in aggregate. “Agriculture should not be considered in a discrete form, rather it should be taken as cross-cutting of other areas as well,” according to Khatiwada.
Despite Khatiwada’s claim, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) does not seem happy with the funds allocated for the sector. Agriculture Secretary Rajendra Prasad Bhari said the ministry will not be able to meet the expected target for employment creation with the budget separated for the ministry. According to him, the ministry was expected to create new jobs for more than 400,000 people. “However, the new programs will enable the sector to create new jobs only for 175,000 people,” said Bhari.
With the dwindling of major economic activities due to the COVID-19 threat, the country’s farm sector is expected to create a large number of employment for Nepalis - both residing here and those who return from foreign employment. Similarly, the sector has also been expected to boost food production to reduce import along with ensuring food security at a time when the disease has engulfed the global economy.
Bhari said his ministry will be receiving only Rs 37.40 billion to conduct agriculture-related programs, which is only Rs 2.60 billion in excess to the last year budget of Rs 34.80. “Compared to the ambitious programs that the government has put forth, the amount is far less to meet the necessary expenses,” said Bhari. “Of the rest, Rs 2.62 billion will go to provinces, Rs 5.44 billion will go to local governments and Rs 4 billion has been separated under the heading of the financial management of the loan that the World Bank and International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) will be providing for the country’s farm sector.”
According to the MoALD, it had sought necessary funds from the government to provide the farmers subsidized loans via Agriculture Development Bank, farmers’ entrepreneurship development program and training and technology development, among others. However, the budget has completely ignored the ministry’s programs.
Uddav Adhikari, an agriculture analyst and farmer, said the budget has failed to bring in new programs. “Most of the ideas such as making the country self-reliant in meat, poultry and vegetable production, promoting agro market through cooperatives and promotion of 122 zones and super zones of agricultural produce in all seven provinces are the old programs, which the previous budgets had forwarded,” said Adhikari.
Adhikari expressed his dissatisfaction over the rise in the budget for the import of chemical fertilizers by undermining the organic fertilizers. “In addition, the budget would rather have allocated funds for compensating farmers suffering because of the use of Garima hybrid seeds and Fall Armyworm and accomplishing the task of categorizing farmers and distributing identity cards to them,” Adhikari added.