Rice import surge poses threat

Kathmandu, September 6:

Despite Nepal being an agricultural country, import of agro-produce, particularly of major food crop, rice is on rise, which is to injure domestic production in the long run.

Though the impact of rice import surge has been felt mostly at the local level, the trend — if continued — will harm the domestic production as well as farmers in the long run, according a study on ‘agro-import surge in Nepal, a case study of rice.’ The study carried out by Bhaskar Sharma for the Import Surge Project, a joint collaboration of ActionAid International Nepal and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), states rice import surge from India has increasingly threatened domestic farm production especially along the Indo-Nepal border areas.

“Increased imports and inflow of cheaper Indian rice through informal channel into Nepal has been a serious concern among the farmers. This has resulted in decreasing prices at a time when cost of production here is on the rise,” said Sharma, quoting the findings of the study. Nepali agriculture sector is also not competitive vis-à-vis the Indian sector.

Making a presentation, Dr Syed Wazid Pirzada, international team leader of Import Surge Project, said that the import surge has emerged as a major challenge for both developing and least developed countries. Dr Pirzada underlined the need to adopt special safeguard measures within the parameter of WTO provisions.

Dr Yubraj Khatiwada, former member of National Planning Commission (NPC) suggested alternative measures such as commercialisation of agriculture and lowering cost of production instead of countering the import surge through tariff barrier mechanism. Dr K B Shrestha, joint secretary at the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives and Yamuna Ghale, team leader at ActionAid Nepal also expressed serious concerns on the