MoAD framing strategy to implement agriculture mechanisation policy

Kathmandu, April 26

The Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) has started framing a strategy for implementation of Agriculture Mechanisation Promotion Policy, which was introduced some two years back.

“The strategy would provide necessary impetus to reduce cost of production, boost productivity and scale up the country’s agriculture sector to a large extent,” said Minister for Agricultural Development Haribol Prasad Gajurel.

“The cost of production in the agriculture sector has been shooting up due to labour shortage — also the reason for many lands in rural areas remaining barren due to outmigration of youths. These issues can be addressed only through proper mechanisation in agriculture sector.”

Addressing a two-day workshop titled ‘Agriculture Mechanisation in South Asia: Trends, Patterns and Implications for Agriculture Development in Nepal’, organised by International Food Policy Research Institute and the Institute for Integrated Development Studies, Minister Gajurel informed that the government is preparing to promote cooperatives for import of agricultural tools by extending certain incentives so that farmers can hire the machineries as per their need at a certain cost.

The government has been levying a nominal customs duty on the import of agricultural machineries for farmers. However, since most engaged in the agriculture sector comprise small-holder farmers, they do not have the capacity to purchase and maintain the machineries, according to the minister.

“If we extend the same facility through cooperatives, small-holder farmers would be able to take the machineries on lease from cooperatives at a certain charge.”

The land ownership structure in the country, domination of small-holder farmers, lack of access to finance in agriculture, lack of proper irrigation facility, among others have been identified as the major barriers for mechanisation of agriculture sector.

Two-third of the country’s workforce is engaged in agriculture sector.

However, contribution of agriculture sector to the greater economy has been declining. Agriculture mechanisation is critical to reduce the number of workforce dependent on agriculture and to be competitive in agriculture production, according to MoAD Secretary Uttam Kumar Bhattarai.

Also addressing the programme, Peter Malnak, mission director of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Nepal, opined that agriculture mechanisation could bring about a dramatic change in reducing poverty in the country. Nepal’s agriculture has remained at subsistence level since long despite the government’s effort to mechanise agriculture and transform it.

Only 24 per cent of farmers use some type of mechanisation while farming in the Tarai area of Nepal, where there is tremendous potential to boost agricultural production through mechanisation. Malnak stressed that small and fragmented land holding, poor infrastructure, lack of proper irrigation facilities, lack of access to finance and technology are the major impediments to bring transformation in agriculture through mechanisation.

He highlighted the need to improve private sector investment in agriculture, which would encourage mechanisation in the sector.

Mechanisation of agriculture covers a wide range of issues like farming, harvesting, agro processing, and storage.

The Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS) — the government’s 20-year vision and 10-year action plan in agriculture sector development — that is going to be implemented from coming fiscal has also emphasised on mechanisation and improving private sector investment in agriculture for development of the sector.