Kathmandu, July 5
After receiving immense pressure from traders, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) has revoked its decision to check pesticides in vegetables imported from India.
During the Cabinet meeting held on Thursday, the ministry revoked its decision citing the lack of technical preparations and pressure from traders, as per the MoICS. Pesticide testing of imported vegetables had started from June 18.
According to Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, secretary at the MoICS, the ministry was under tremendous pressure from traders that led it to revoke its decision.
Meanwhile, a source at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) claimed that the MoICS withdrew the decision after the Indian Embassy and exporters from India pressurised the ministry to do so.
As per a source at the Indian Embassy, the National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPO) and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) of India have been issuing phytosanitary certificates for export of such items to Nepal, that have been acceptable to Nepali authorities. Due to the re-testing requirement, vegetable trade had been halted.
Furthermore, the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM)-13 of International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) requires that notifications be provided by the importing country to the exporting country to bring out significant failures of consignments to comply with phytosanitary import requirements. This has not been complied with, the source from the Indian Embassy added.
As per the source, bilateral trade arrangements between Nepal and India have been in place for decades and import of items takes place on basis of phytosanitary certificates issued by designated authorities on both sides.
Responding to this issue, the MoALD has said that this is not their area of work. As per the work division, MoALD is working to strengthen the quarantine system of the country. According to a source from the ministry, they have requested the Ministry of Finance to provide Rs four billion to instal the latest technologies at the quarantine centres.
Meanwhile, agriculture experts have said that the ministry implemented the decision without proper preparations. “The government’s decision to check the level of pesticides in vegetables before they enter the country was a good step for food safety. However, the lack of preparation brought about this situation,” said Krishna Poudel, an agriculture expert.
As per him, it would have been better if the government had held discussions with technical experts before implementing such a big decision. Moreover, the quarantine centres at the borders are not fully equipped to check all kinds of pesticides. It can check only two kinds of chemicals in vegetables, he added.
“With its poor infrastructure, the government shouldn’t have implemented this decision,” Poudel said, adding, “And now when the government has already implemented the decision, it is not wise to step back from its own decision. Surely, this will affect consumers.” Thus, the government has to build a fully equipped quarantine and introduce result-oriented regulations to regulate the sector. He further accused the MoALD of stepping back from its responsibility.
Similarly, Uttam Kumar Bhattarai, former secretary at MoALD, has also criticised the ministry for not consulting experts before taking such a decision. “They should have made some preparations and conducted studies before taking such a decision. Since this is a technical matter, they should have held discussions with experts which they failed to do so,” he said.
Bhattarai further claimed that the ministry failed to take its stand and that it is going to affect the consumers’ health. He added that lack of domestic production had brought about this situation. “If the country was able to produce the required demand, then this situation would never have arisen.”
Prior to this, the quarantine centre in Kathmandu used to check the level of pesticides in imported vegetables.
A version of this article appears in print on July 06, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.