Money

Middlemen in veggie trade to be eliminated

- KRISHANA PRASAIN, Kathmandu

The government has decided to find a way to eliminate the layers of middlemen in the vegetable trade as their involvement has led to high prices for consumers. A committee has been formed to make a study and prepare a report.


“We have been given five days to submit a report suggesting ways to link farmers and consumers directly,” said Navaraj Dhakal, joint secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies.


The government does not interfere in the pricing of vegetables under the open market policy, but there are certain areas that need to be looked into, he added. For example, traders normally do not produce a purchase bill.


“We will recommend creating a provision making it mandatory to issue a bill of purchase,” he said. The provision is aimed at making the purchase rate or the price paid to farmers transparent, and reduce the involvement of middlemen in the supply chain. No commission or costs associated with middlemen means lower prices for the vegetables, said Jagadish Bohara of Kuleshwor, a regular vegetable buyer at the Kalimati market. “Farmers are not getting reasonable prices for their products, but consumers are being forced to pay high prices,” he said.


During a recent market inspection, the government found that seasonal vegetable prices had increased up to 30 percent over a month while off-season vegetable prices had shot up 40-50 percent due to the involvement of middlemen. The increase in prices has hit consumers the hardest. Some consumers said that prices had risen so high that Rs500 could buy only three items of vegetables nowadays.


Middlemen in the lucrative vegetable trade have become emboldened to even manhandle members of a government team on an inspection visit at the Kalimati market on Monday. The country’s largest vegetable and fruit market partially shut down on Tuesday in protest against the market inspection.


According to traders, vegetable dealers did not supply enough vegetables to create an artificial shortage of daily commodities. The market received only 100 tonnes of vegetables against the normal requirement of 650 tonnes daily.


Khom Prasad Ghimire, president of the Federation of Fruit and Vegetable Entrepreneurs, said that they would continue the protest against the arrest of Bharat Prasad Khatiwada, general secretary of the federation, and vegetable trader Bimal Dhungana. “Considering the inconvenience that might be caused to consumers, we have decided to keep the market open till 8 am and close it for the rest of the day,” he said.


The traders are mainly opposed to the government’s plan to make it compulsory to issue a bill for vegetables purchased from farmers. They claimed that middlemen were not involved in the market and that traders only had a small profit margin.


“Vegetable prices are set based on the quality. Prices of the same vegetables differ with the quality and season. Off-season vegetables are obviously expensive,” said a trader, who did not wish to be named.

Published: 2018-08-22 08:35:36