Import surge raises concern

Kathmandu, April 3:

“Import surge may not necessarily result in domestic injury. However, where injury occurs, action must be taken to minimise or negate it,” concludes a report on ‘Import surge in Nepal: A case study of rice,’ launched in the capital today by ActionAid Nepal.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Shanker Sharma, vice-chairman of National Planning Commission (NPC), said that import surge hurts those farmers, who sell their produce.

However, Dr Shibesh Chandra Regmi, country director of ActionAid Nepal, opined that in the long run it will hurt consumers also. “When local producers will not be able to compete, and stop producing agro-produces, importers and multi-national companies (MCNs) will have a monopoly in the market,” he said.

Rice, the staple food of Nepalis, has not only witnessed a surge in import in recent times, but cereals are facing similar problems too. “Measuring the impact of import surge on local economies is a difficult task,” said Dr Krishna Prasad Pant, joint secretary at the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives, adding that there is yet another problem of how to detect injury, ‘if there is any’.

“Though World Trade Organisation (WTO) has mentioned seven criteria to measure import surge, it is a long and difficult procedure for a country like Nepal,” Pant said.

“To fight such problems, Nepal can work out a common agriculture policy with India, like the European Union has,” suggested Dr Posh Raj Pandey, President of SAWTEE.

“Because Indo-Nepal Trade Treaty, Article 4 states that ‘exemption from basic customs duties and quantitative restrictions on imports of primary products on a reciprocal basis’ is an obstacle in the development of agriculture in Nepal, he said. He added that Nepali agro produces can not compete with Indian products, which have more competitive edge. “The findings of the report should be taken seriously,” he advised.

Making agriculture sector more competent is a long term solution to stem the import surge, Pandey said. “Domestic support is the key to that.”

The research, which is done by Bhaskar Sharma, is the first of its kind in Nepal, claims ActionAid Nepal.