Experts urge policy harmonisation for boosting exports

Kathmandu, July 9

Experts have stressed on the need for proper harmonisation of production-related policies and strategies for greater efficiency or scale in production, as the country has been gradually losing its export base due to supply-side constraints.

Stakeholders of the two-day progress review meeting of agricultural commodities included in the National Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS), which concluded today, have said that proper harmonisation of policies and coordination among concerned agencies could play a vital role in creating a favourable environment for production, including low production cost.

“We cannot boost export without competitive and quality products,” said Toya Narayan Gyawali, joint secretary at the Ministry of Commerce (MoC).

The country has been facing high trade deficit due to higher volume of import against sluggish export.

As per trade statistics of the first 11 months of this fiscal unveiled by the Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC), the country has imported merchandise goods worth Rs 11 against export of one rupee.

Burgeoning trade deficit caused by the rising import of consumption goods has posed a threat to the country’s economy, according to Gyawali.

“Import of agricultural commodities — cereals, soybean and fruits — exceeded Rs 50 billion in the last fiscal. The import value of agricultural commodities stands at around three per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.”

Officials of MoC and Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) had held progress review of agricultural commodities included in NTIS.

Agricultural commodities, namely tea, large cardamom, honey, ginger and lentils were included in NTIS 2010.

Agricultural commodities listed as priority export products have 12 per cent weightage on total merchandise export of NTIS products in base year 2012-13, when the review process of NTIS 2010 was initiated.

NTIS is the blueprint of MoC to mobilise aid for trade and partner with the private sector for trade sector development. As the MoC is going to implement NTIS 2016, the MoC and the MoAD sat to review the progress of agricultural products of NTIS 2010 to move forward by addressing the past shortcomings.

Lack of production and various barriers to export have caused dismal progress in expanding export of agricultural commodities. Yet, export of large cardamom and ginger is encouraging.

“We have to work simultaneously on production; lowering the cost of production; address non-tariff barriers for export like sanitary and phytosanitary measures and optimum value addition,” said Lekhnath Acharya, joint secretary of MoAD.

“With an objective to promote competitive production, MoAD is going to develop pocket areas for agriculture production through the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project, which has announced a raft of incentives for producers. We will also promote NTIS products under this scheme.”

In this context, Gyawali from MoC stressed proper synchronisation between the Agricultural Development Strategy (ADS) — the 20-year vision document for agriculture sector development — with 10-year action plan, through which the NTIS could deliver better outcomes.

“Harmonisation in such strategies could be instrumental for the socio-economic development of the country because both have common objectives of eliminating poverty through expansion of production base, value chain development for inclusive and sustainable economic growth,” he said.

During the progress review meeting, constant engagement on production, resolving trade barriers by adopting various trade facilitation measures, trade infrastructure development were also highlighted as the necessary boosters for export-led economic growth in the future.

NTIS 2016 has given more emphasis on cross-cutting issues that are very essential for enhancing trade capacity like institutional capacity building for trade negotiation, improved business environment for trade and investment, trade and transport facilitation, standards and technical regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, intellectual property rights and payment-related issues, among others.