Taplejung voters want election candidates to give top priority to marketing cardamom
- The price of cardamom in the district has slumped from Rs 3,000 to Rs 500 per kg in three years
Taplejung, November 20
As the first phase of the parliamentary and provincial elections draw close, voters in the district expect winners to work to ensure market for the large volume of cardamom produced in the district, besides expediting infrastructure development.
Due to lack of market, the cardamom price, which stood at around Rs 3,000 per kg three years ago, has now plummeted to just over Rs 500 kg.
There are various factors responsible for the price drop such as increased output, low demand from major export destinations such as Arabian countries and cheaper alternatives produced in countries like the Philippines, China and Vietnam, according to local cardamom traders.
Besides these, another crucial reason for the declining price is that farmers have been focused more on quantity rather than quality, according to cardamom trader Dinesh Adhikari. “Lured by high prices, farmers in the district have almost abandoned other crops and have started planting cardamom. So much so that they are using land plots which are not ideal for cardamom farming,” he said.
This is where the state should intervene, said Kamal Bishwakarma, who has around 150 ropani cardamom farm. “For several generations, we have been adopting the same technique of cardamom farming. We have never been given training and nobody has told us about the right way of cultivating cardamom,” he said, adding, “So we want the winner to work towards this end because if the situation is not controlled soon, farmers will have to face serious starvation as most of them have abandoned food crops in favour of cardamom.”
Bishwakarma demanded that winners should work to set up a cardamom development board and cardamom study centre in the district as this would help modernise cardamom farming.
Election candidates too have made cardamom price stabilisation one of their major electoral agenda.
However, cardamom trader Bhadra Bir Regmi said it was just their gimmick to attract votes and it was out of their reach. “What they can do is ensure market access,” he said. Local produce is first shipped to the eastern Tarai town of Birtamoad from where it is exported to India. Although Arab and Gulf countries are major consumers
of cardamom, Nepali products reach there only via India, Regmi said, adding that if Nepal could directly export cardamom to the major consumers, things would change. “So I expect the winners in the election to work towards this end,” he said.
Another major demand of local voters is infrastructure development. Local citizen leader Prajapati Kaphle, 80, said the Tamor River had immense hydropower potential, but leaders so far had only expressed commitment and had done nothing. He said road projects like Tamor Corridor, which connects the Tiptala Pass on the Nepal-China border in the north to Jogbani of India in the south via Olangchungola and Dharan, should be expedited.
Track opening of the road from the Chinese border to Olangchungola has already been completed. “But that was done from locally-raised resources. Now the government should work to connect the road with the Tamor Corridor, which will prove a boon for the development of the region,” he said.
Chhatrapati Pyakurel, mayor of the district’s only municipality Fungling, echoed Kaphle. “If the corridor is developed, it will not only help Taplejung, but the entire Province 1 and the country,” he said. Pyakurel also said that the Hindu religious site of Pathivara had immense tourism potential, but it had not been tapped optimally. “If we could set up Pathivara Development Area following the model of Pashupati Development Area, it could help attract a large number of tourists to the area and ultimately help employment generation and economic development of the district.”
Another major tourist attraction of the district is the Kanchanjungha trekking route.
Om Prakash Rai, a local of Suketar, which is known as the gateway to Kanchanjungha, said Nepal had failed to fully tap one of the finest trekking routes of the world. The 21-day trekking route around the world’s third highest mountain has remained unexploited for reasons such as lack of fundamental facilities like water, communication, hotels, and health facilities, among others, according to Rai.
Another reason Rai pointed out was lack of awareness among locals about how to host tourists. “Locals basically do not know how to talk to tourists, what food to serve, and what tourists actually want,” he said, adding that it was equally important to train locals to develop trekking routes. “If these issues are not addressed, the number of tourists, which has been falling by the day, will continue to fall further.”
Due to lack of tourists, the only airport in the district at Suketar has remained almost idle, said Rai. “The funniest part is there was at least one flight a week when there was no tarmac on the airport runway. But now, that the runway has been black-topped, there are no flights,” he said, attributing the situation to dwindling number of foreign tourists.
UML youth leader Yogesh Bhattarai and the Nepali Congress’ Keshav Prasad Dahal are among the candidates contesting parliamentary first-past-the-post election from Taplejung.