‘MoALD must prioritise production and supply’

Kathmandu, April 27

With just a couple of months left for the current fiscal year to end, the government at present is busy preparing the budget for next fiscal.

Various ministries have been holding discussions regarding their budget policies and programmes. And stakeholders in the meantime have said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) must focus on production and supply of agricultural products while preparing the budget for next fiscal year.

Agriculture expert Krishna Poudel said that the upcoming budget should prioritise the availability of seeds and fertilisers, transportation services and sustainable market.

“To commercialise the agriculture sector, the government has to invest in the aforementioned aspects,” he said. “Unless they invest in boosting production and marketing, there is no chance for the agriculture sector to expand,” he stated.

From processing to marketing, the government has to take the responsibility, he added.

Poudel further said that the crisis created by the coronavirus could be a good opportunity to attract people towards agriculture. “Lots of people, particularly women, are involved in agriculture in the country, however, they are not getting the right price for their produce, hence people are gradually turning away from agriculture,” he said. “However, the current situation has revealed this is the right time to boost the agriculture sector.”

MoALD should make sufficient investment to make the country self-reliant in agriculture products, he opined.

“Our country can produce almost all kinds of essential products,” he said, adding, “Thus, the government has to bring programmes for farmers where they can earn profit directly without the involvement of middlemen.”

He further stressed on promoting organic agriculture.

Meanwhile, senior economist Keshav Acharya stressed on promoting small farmers.

According to him, as the country has a large number of small farmers who fundamentally rely only on agriculture, the government has to introduce a mechanism to utilise them.

“The MoALD has a lot of obligations to fulfil like creating an environment for them to work and sell their products in the market at the right price,” he said. “Cooperative farming should be implemented as the country has a huge number of small farmers.” He, however, said that lack of implementation has always been a problem for effective utilisation of the budget.

“The ministry has to change the budget implementation mechanism and decentralise its authority. The trend of depending on the central government even for small decisions must end,” Acharya said, adding, “The ministry has to bring a new mechanism of providing grants and subsidies to farmers. Budget allocated for the farmers has to reach the real farmers directly without the involvement of middlemen.”

Meanwhile, he claimed that real farmers never receive the grants provided by the government. Acharya also stressed on allocating the budget in such a manner that it maximises the use of technology to develop the agriculture sector. “Globally too, besides the banking sector, it is the agriculture industry that has been utilising technology the most,” he said. “We have to develop technology to modernise our agriculture industry which is basically at the subsistence level.”

He further said that the ministry should strengthen institutions like Nepal Agriculture Research Council and Agriculture Knowledge centres for the betterment of the sector.

“Agricultural institutions based on research, knowledge, training and marketing have to be prioritised in the forthcoming budget,” he added. Meanwhile, MoALD has started listing the projects and programmes for the upcoming fiscal year. Before the lockdown, MoALD had requested all the departments and divisions working under it to submit their annual projects. Based on these reports, the ministry will prepare budget programmes for next fiscal.

However, no fixed plan has been prepared yet as the ministry is also conducting an impact assessment of coronavirus on the agriculture sector. The Ministry of Finance has set a budget ceiling of Rs 33.18 billion for MoALD.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 28, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.