Nepal | August 04, 2020

Could COVID-19 disruptions change agriculture sector?

Share Now:


Like every other sector severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic since the beginning of this year, the agriculture sector was also not spared by the pandemic, with each smallholder farmer reportedly incurring losses between Rs 700,000 and Rs 800,000.

While the government does not even have the exact data of the losses incurred in the sector, some stakeholders believe the pandemic has provided a rare opportunity to promote agriculture in the country.

Farmers’ woes

The lockdown imposed in the country from March 24 to control the spread of the highly infectious virus took a huge bite out of the vegetable market — while the demand for vegetables plunged drastically, farmers were forced to let their produce rot in the fields due to movement restrictions. Most farmers reportedly even destroyed their harvest in the lack of market.

Even as the government announced that vehicles transporting essential products, including vegetables, would be allowed to ply, farmers in the rural areas claim they were unable to supply their produce to the market as the suppliers were unable to travel to the fields to collect the produce.

Normally the market is flooded with local vegetables between the months of May and July and farmers usually make good profit in this period. “But, due to the lockdown this year, local production far exceeded demand, forcing farmers to slash the price of their produce,” said Khom Prasad Ghimire, president of the Federation of Fruits and Vegetable Entrepreneurs.

As per him, the price of vegetables this year is most likely at record lows.

“Selling the vegetables at whatever price they are getting is better than letting them just rot in the fields or destroying them,” Ghimire said, adding that while this situation had benefited the consumers, the farmers have not been able to even break even.

Due to lack of market some farmers even resorted to home delivery of vegetables. Vegetables from Kavrepalanchowk, Palung, Dhading, Chitwan, Makawanpur, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu are being supplied in the valley at the moment.

According to farmers, vegetables produced in Chitwan, Dhading, Kavre, Dang, Bara and Makawanpur can fulfil almost 75 per cent demand of vegetables in the country.

Krishna Raj Suwal, a vegetable farmer from Bhaktapur, said the government has to bridge the gap between farmers’ products and the market. “There are lots of small farmers who were not getting a market for their products before the COVID-19, the pandemic further exacerbated the situation,” he said.

Each small farmer has faced losses amounting to Rs 700,000 to Rs 800,000 during this pandemic, he added.

Govt lacks data

Despite the outcry, the government does not even have the details of the losses in the agriculture sector.

“We had tried to collect the details of losses in the agriculture sector in the first month of the lockdown, but the process was not given continuity,” admitted Hari Bahadur KC, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD).

As per him, before the budget announcement MoALD had collected the losses faced by different sectors of agriculture in the first month of the lockdown targeting to provide relief to them. However, as the Ministry of Finance largely ignored the proposals for relief submitted by MoALD, the latter halted the activity of collecting loss details in the sector.

Meanwhile, KC claimed the ministry is conducting impact assessment of COVID-19 on agriculture sector in coordination with United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

An opportunity?

One bright spot in what can otherwise be considered a dark and dreary situation is that apart from the vegetables that are not produced within the country, the import of vegetables was almost completely halted during the lockdown period.

With reduced demand and ample supply, local produce was more than enough. Hence, the stakeholders have said that the pandemic should be an eye-opener for the opportunities in the agriculture sector.

“We’ve been complaining that mostly only women and senior citizens are highly involved in the agriculture sector. However, during the pandemic a large number of youths have returned from abroad and are willing to get involved in the sector.

We have to mobilise that manpower,” opined Uddhav Adhikari, former president of National Farmers Group Federation.

He further said that the public has also become aware of the importance of being self-sufficient in agriculture.

“Most people have come to realise that if we can grow sufficient produce to cater to the local market, we won’t have to face food scarcity during such pandemic.”

According to him, a lot of people practised farming in their terraces during the lockdown period as hordes of people returned to their villages when the lockdown was imposed.”Now taking advantage of this situation, the government should bring policies to promote the sector and make it profitable.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on July 15, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

NASA astronauts make historic return home aboard SpaceX capsule

US astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who flew to the International Space Station in SpaceX's new Crew Dragon, splashed down in the capsule in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday after a two-month voyage that was NASA's first crewed mission from home soil in nine years. Behnken and Hurley, Read More...

Media urged to refrain from brewing controversy over court verdict, order

Media criticism of verdicts erodes faith in the judiciary Kathmandu, August 2 Nepal Bar Association today issued a press release urging media outlets to maintain restraint about court verdicts. It also said a court should not pass an order or a verdict that creates controversy. “NBA’s ser Read More...

TUTH. Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj

COVID patient recovers after plasma therapy

KATHMANDU, AUGUST 2 Plasma therapy was used for the first time in the country to successfully treat a 60-year-old coronavirus patient, in Kathmandu, earlier this week. The procedure was performed at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj. “The patient, a resident of Biratnagar, Read More...

Call to grant rights to reopen schools to local levels

Kathmandu, August 2 The government has been advised to come up with a procedure to pass on the right to reopen schools that have remained closed due to the COVID-19, to respective local governments and schools. While Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is preparing to bring a work pr Read More...

‘People’s voice will be suppressed if journalists lose their jobs’

Kaski, August 2 President of Federation of Nepali Journalists Govinda Acharya said actions such as relieving journalists of their jobs, providing half salary and exerting pressure on them to stay on leave without payment would suppress the voice of the people. During an interaction here today, Read More...

25 per cent tourism workers return to work

Pokhara, August 2 After relaxation of the lockdown to contain COVID-19, normalcy is beginning to return in the tourism sector with workers in this sector starting to return to work after four months of shutdown. Pokhara Tourism Council said 25 per cent workers associated with the tourism indus Read More...

Police vital for ensuring peace: CM Gurung

Pokhara, August 2 Gandaki Province Chief Minister Prithivi Subba Gurung today said that Gandaki Province Police Office had to play a significant role in enforcing peace and controlling crime. CM Gurung handed over keys of vehicles provided by the provincial government to Gandaki Province P Read More...

Snakebite patients up in Bheri Hospital

Nepalgunj, August 2 The number of snakebite patients has increased in Nepalgunj-based Bheri Hospital of late. Snakebite patients were admitted to the emergency and ICU wards after their numbers surged with the beginning of monsoon. As many as 10 to 15 snakebite patients reach the hospital f Read More...