EDITORIAL: Tap potentials
The existing policy on agriculture must be revamped in a manner that a specific region is focused on specific farming
Concerned government ministries, agencies and private sectors must work in tandem to minimize the ballooning trade deficit and increase export to keep the nation’s economy sustainable.
The country’s trade deficit is widening every year, mainly because of import of almost everything from machinery to even agricultural produce that can be grown within the country if appropriate policies are in place.
The trade deficit grew to Rs. 514 billion in the past seven months of this fiscal, whereas the country managed to export only around Rs. 42 billion in the same period.
Exports can barely sustain the import of petroleum products for which a large chunk of foreign currency is spent. Rising imports of consumable goods is a major concern which should be taken seriously.
Nepal can become self-reliant in agricultural products within a decade or so if proper planning is made to this effect. Increased agricultural production is not enough.
The government must create a trade-friendly environment if agricultural products are to be exported to neighbouring countries.
In order to be able to export agro-products, the government must establish internationally accredited quarantine laboratories at the centre and major customs points that can issue test certificates for export-oriented agro-products.
Plant, animal, food and chemical quarantine labs must be set up at major customs points from where agro-products can be exported.
The government agencies such as Department of Food and Quality Control and Nepal Bureau of Standard and Metrology must reach a Mutual Recognition Agreement with India, China and Bangladesh, the three countries where there is every possibility of exporting Nepal’s agro-products at competitive prices.
Furthermore, the government should also hold serious talks with India to remove the anti-dumping duties levied by the Indian government on Nepal’s agro-products, especially jute products.
Nepali traders and businessmen often face bureaucratic hurdles while exporting the agro-products to India and China due to the absence of internationally-accredited quarantine labs within the country.
Apart from this, export and trade-related infrastructure such as highways, Inland Clearance Depots and Integrated Check Posts must be upgraded to promote exports.
These are prerequisites for doing export related business still lacking. Nepal’s economy has been relying on remittances for decades sent by migrant workers.
If this trend continues unabated, the possibility of making the country self-reliant in agriculture, which has tremendous potentials, given the climatic condition and varied topography, will become next to impossible.
The existing policy on agriculture must be revamped in a manner that a specific region is focused on specific farming. Karnali Zone, for example, can be developed as a mainstay for apple farming and herbal growing and processing centre.
There are several other regions that have potentials for other high-end cash crops and agro-products.
In order to achieve the goal of making the country self-reliant in agriculture, the government must retain the able workforce within the country along with appropriate policies and effective programmes.
Ginger farmers in the Jaljala Rural Municipality of north Prabat are regretting that they switched to cultivating it from millet and maize.
The ginger grown here is mostly rotting in the absence of a market for them. Ginger grown here is mostly sold in Beni and Kusha of Myadi, Pokhara and even India.
This situation might have arisen because there are no roads to the market from this municipality, and farmers are compelled to carry their produce for selling in Beni.
Farmers who paid as much as Rs. 80 per kg for the ginger seeds are selling their produce at less than Rs. 20 per kg now. In the previous two years they were sold at Rs. 60-80 per kg.
The demand for ginger is relatively low in the country. Thus, it is high time the municipality had transportation facilities to sell their produce at a fair price.
There is still about 5,000 kg of ginger to be sold here. The reasons for the low sale of this commodity are yet to be found out as they were selling well in the previous years.
Transportation is part of the problem, but there could be other factors too for the low sale of ginger.