Money

Dependence on foreign farm goods spinning out of control

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu
Vegetable imports have ballooned despite growing commercial farming. During the first half of the fiscal year, Nepal bought Rs11.36 billion worth of foreign veggies

Feb 2, 2018-Imports of agricultural products jumped 16.96 percent to Rs105.22 billion in the first half of the current fiscal year 2017-18, widening the country’s trade deficit and raising concerns that dependence on foreign farm goods was spinning out of control.

According to the Department of Customs, imports of agricultural products during the six-month period, mid-July 2017 to mid-January 2018, almost equalled annual imports six years ago. In 2009-10, the agro import bill totalled Rs44.43 billion.

Annual imports swelled to Rs76.05 billion in 2011-12, and to Rs99.35 billion in 2012-13. Nepal bought foreign farm products worth Rs196 billion in the last fiscal year, up 11.36 percent from the previous year.

According to the statistics, cereal topped the list of agro imports followed by edible oil, vegetables, animal fodder and nuts and fruits.

The cereal import bill amounted to Rs22.04 billion in the first six months of this fiscal year, up 16.09 percent year-on-year.

Among cereal imports, paddy and rice imports came to Rs13.65 billion. Nepal imported 257,009 tonnes of rice worth Rs10.86 billion from India alone in the first half of 2017-18. Likewise, the country imported 224,511 tonnes of maize worth Rs5.61 billion from India. 

Agro experts say that Nepal started importing cereals seven to eight years ago, and now imports have risen to alarming levels.

Agro expert and scientist Bhola Man Singh Basnet said that despite being a food surplus country for the last five years, cereal imports had been growing largely due to an expanding middle-income population with a preference for quality rice.

“Basmati rice is imported to feed the people in Kathmandu in particular,”

he said. Since Nepal doesn’t grow such fine rice in sufficient quantities, imports have been growing every year, he added.

Rice imports from India amounted to 257,009 tonnes valued at Rs10.86 billion. “This shows that Nepal has been importing fine rice,” said Basnet.

Experts point to a direct link between remittance and food habits in Nepal. “Nepalis have been earning more from the last couple of years, and demand for basmati rice has grown accordingly.” Meanwhile, maize imports have been rising due to growing demand for animal and poultry fodder.

According to the figures, the edible oil import bill jumped 20 percent to Rs15.20 billion in the first six months of the fiscal year. Vegetable imports have ballooned despite growing commercial farming. During the first half of the fiscal year, Nepal bought Rs11.36 billion worth of foreign veggies.

Meanwhile, an expanding poultry industry has boosted imports of animal fodder. Nepal imported animal fodder worth Rs7.91 billion in the first six months, up 5.99 percent year-on-year.

Imports of chemical fertilisers recorded the strongest growth. The country imported chemical fertilisers worth Rs6.52 billion in the first half of this fiscal, a whopping 63 percent growth.

Officials at the Ministry of Agricultural Development said that they had recorded chemical fertiliser imports in terms of value this year due a fall in global prices. However, the amount of imports has remained almost the same.  

Published: 02-02-2018 08:37

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