Kuntabesi farmers gear up to adopt GAPs

Kathmandu, March 24

The government is all set to launch new farming technique in Kuntabesi of Kavre district soon, under which farmers will produce vegetables that will not adversely affect human health or the environment.

This technique is known as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). As the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) has recently developed the guidelines for GAPs based on the guiding principle of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, it has been encouraging commercial farmers to follow GAPs while producing vegetables.

The farmers of Kuntabesi will adopt GAPs in production of cabbage and cauliflower from this year, informed Pradyumna Raj Pandey, senior agriculture economist at the MoAD.

The ministry has also incorporated incentives for GAPs programme in next fiscal’s budget to extend this practice nationwide. Based on the allocation of incentives to promote GAPs, the MoAD will launch the programme in various parts of the country.

The programme will be implemented through District Agriculture Development Office (DADO). “Farmers interested to follow GAPs would first have to submit their application to the DADO. The DADO would give them the permission to adopt GAPs after conducting required inspections and would also monitor the entire production and harvesting process,” said Pandey. “And the final produce will be certified by the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC).”

The ministry has already developed the baseline requirements of GAPs for vegetables, coffee, and tea. It is working on doing the same for all the crops in the coming days.

GAPs are a set of principles, regulations and technical recommendations applicable to production, processing and food transport. They address various concerns related to human health, environment protection and improvement of worker conditions and their families, as per the FAO’s definition.

In recent times, farmers have been using excessive amount of pesticides, chemical fertilisers and other inedible chemicals in perishable agro outputs to extend the shelf life. However, such measures not only affect human health, but also gradually degrade the soil and environment as well. GAPs will address both food safety and food security.

The GAPs guidelines have categorised the baseline requirements under three different categories — major, minor and critical. Producers must meet 100 per cent criteria categorised under critical category, 90 per cent under major and at least 50 per cent under minor category, to get certification from the DFTQC, according to Pandey.

MoAD has been planning to boost export of agricultural products through GAPs because such products enjoy preferential market access in export destinations. Currently, exporters of agriculture products have been facing various hassles due to quality concerns (sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures) being raised by the importing countries. On the other hand, GAPs are essential to protect the local consumers as well.

The enforcement of GAPs alone could be the solution to protect consumers from consuming food items that are hazardous to health. It is more relevant in this day and age, when rampant use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers has been growing to boost production.

The Plant Protection Directorate (PPD) under MoAD has been working to control the excessive use of pesticides through monitoring of pesticide residue in fruits and vegetables at the various entry points of the Valley. PPD, during the monitoring, takes the information about the place where the fruits and vegetables were produced and recommends the Department of Agriculture to conduct awareness programmes in the places where excessive pesticide is used.