Old tech blamed for poor food exports
Jun 14, 2014-
Nepal has not been able to realize its full potential for boosting exports of food products due to obsolete food processing technology resulting in low nutrition value and high cost of production, said experts on Friday.
Food expert Dev Bhakta Shakya said Nepal had failed to adopt newly emerging technologies while food technologies had been expanding globally.
“It has adversely affected the production of high value edibles besides hindering the commercialization of the agriculture sector,” said Shakya, speaking at Food Conference 2014 organised by the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control.
Nepal has been mostly relying on traditional methods like pasteurisation in the food processing process for food safety. “We have failed to adopt modern technologies that are based on treatment through high pressure, irradiation, microwave heating, infra-red and ultra-violet light,” said Shakya.
“These methods require less energy for food processing besides making the food products free of microbes.”
Nepal has been unable to promote its food exports due to the low scale of production and slow progress in complying with the quality related concerns of global buyers. Foreign countries have been barring entry to Nepal’s food products citing low quality standards.
“Lack of accredited labs, failure to formulate and implement the Residue Monitoring Plan and lack of initiatives for Mutual Recognition Agreement with trading partner countries have mainly affected the export business,” said Uttam Kumar Bhattarai, joint secretary at the Ministry of Agricultural Development.
Due to lack of modern food processing technologies, the country has been exporting agro products in their raw form.
“Only a few farm products are processed before being shipped to the buyers,” said Bhattarai.
According to the ministry’s estimate, the total value addition of the country’s agro products stands at a mere 2.44 percent of the total agricultural products. The Nepal Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS) has identified food products like large cardamom, ginger, tea, coffee, noodles, honey, lentils and medicinal herbs as the chief exportable goods of the country.
However, these products have failed to yield high export earnings in the last four years since the strategy came into effect. According to the ministry, sugar and dairy products also possess high export potential.
Nepal exported food products worth Rs 18.78 billion last year. Besides the items that fall under the NTIS, the country has been exporting biscuits, rice, oil cakes, vegetables, fruits, wheat flour and Niger seeds.
Meanwhile, Bhattarai has stressed the need to focus on post-harvest activities. “We have been considering the present primitive level of food processing as the last word in value addition.
A higher level of processing by using modern technology is a must to increase the value chain in the food business,” he added.
Published: 14-06-2014 09:33