EDITORIAL: Farming roadmap

Local units should encourage farmers to unite under cooperatives and produce goods at a large scale so that they can sell their products at competitive prices

After daringly ending the syndicate system in the transport sector, the government is preparing to support farmers by effectively removing the practice of middlemen in vegetable business and providing them an easy access to markets for their products. It is the middlemen who do not grow any vegetables but earn maximum benefit by playing in between the farmers and the market. They are not only exploiting the farmers of their produces but also the consumers who pay much more than the middlemen pay to the farmers. In order to get rid of the middlemen’s exploitation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Management and Cooperatives has come up with a plan to eliminate middlemen in the vegetable markets in its “Transformation Roadmap 2018” for the improvement of agriculture, livestock, land management and cooperatives sectors in the country. The naked truth is that the farmers who produce vegetables do not get fair prices of the products due to the involvement of the middlemen, who buy vegetable at cheaper rates from farmers and sell them at hefty prices at the markets. It, however, will be a Herculean task for the government to do the needful in favour of the farmers, who are compelled to sell their vegetables at throw-away prices.

The government is planning to allot 25 per cent of stalls in big vegetable market like Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Market to cooperative farmers and to establish auction centres at different locations to fix prices of vegetables to end middlemen activities. The ministry is also planning to introduce law to ensure right to food, food security and food sovereignty. The ministry has also plans to introduce soil-test programme across the country. This will help the farmers ascertain about the condition of their lands and make plans for growing suitable crops based on the soil test. The ministry’s plan to rope in migrant returnees in the agriculture sector and to provide them with up to 70 per cent grant assistance is a welcome move.

The roadmap appears to be made public after a serious consideration in the agriculture sector. The plans to develop pocket areas of high-value crops in different provinces – for example tea and cardamom in Province 1, coffee in Province 5, herbal medicines and oil in Province 6 and olive oil in Province 7 – and to establish an accredited laboratory to check quality of agro-products for export and, branding of their goods and certifying them with the registered trademark with geographical indications are very encouraging. To get this roadmap implemented, local and provincial governments must encourage farmers to unite under cooperatives and produce goods at a large scale so that they can sell their products at competitive prices at local and international markets without the middlemen. Cooperatives can be one of the effective mechanisms which increase the farmers’ bargaining power. The roadmap and the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project need to work in tandem for the development of the agriculture sector and vegetable farming. The monopoly of middlemen will come to an end when the farmers are made institutionally stronger.

Preserving artefacts

Arrests of three persons for their alleged involvement in collecting a wide range of metal idols of archaeological significance and selling them to foreigners are a real cause for concern. The Central Investigation Bureau has confiscated 234 idols of gods and goddess and Buddha, 101 coins and other metal artefacts from three Durbar Marg-based shops. The value of these items is believed to be millions of rupees. Police say the arrestees were involved in supplying artefacts and idols using air cargo services.

Stealing of artefacts and idols and smuggling them into foreign countries have been rife in the country, thanks firstly to lack of inventory, secondly to lax security system and thirdly to weak implementation of law. Recently, two 1,000-year-old stone deities were brought to Nepal from a museum in New York. The sculptures had gone missing some 30 years ago. The sad fact is we still do not know the whereabouts of hundreds of other stolen objects. Losing ancient idols and artefacts is as good as erasing history. Their preservation must be a priority agenda. Those involved in illegal trading of such items of archaeological significance must be hunted down and brought to book.