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New agro roadmap envisions mechanised, modern farming

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

May 7, 2018-

The government Sunday launched a short-, medium- and long-term agricultural transformation roadmap that envisions generating more jobs, making the country self-sufficient in food and boosting agro exports. 

The 58-point programme under the left alliance government’s Prosperous Nepal: Happy Nepalis campaign aims to usher in a new era of mechanized and modern farming to ease the country’s dependence on food imports, said Agriculture, Land Management and Cooperatives Minister Chakra Pani Khanal.

Nepal’s raw and processed agricultural import bill is close to hitting the psychological level of Rs200 billion, way higher than what the country spends on oil imports on which it is totally dependent, according to the Department of Customs.

The government admitted that there was extensive leakage of funds distributed for agricultural programmes. As a result, the farm sector has not achieved the expected level of growth. A myriad of problems including ineffectiveness of the cooperatives sector, land fragmentation and urbanization plague the country’s important sector, said Khanal.

“Nepal’s agricultural productivity is very low, it has not been able to meet domestic demand resulting in ballooning agricultural commodities import,” he said. “The poverty level is also high among people engaged in agriculture.” There are many challenges, yet Nepal’s agriculture sector, if mixed with tourism, has the potential to create a self-dependent economy, he added.

As per the programme, the government will give the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) the status of deemed university in order to promote research. This university is allowed to award degrees under its own name. The government has planned to double the number of improved cow and buffalo breeds within five years.

In order to ensure timely availability of chemical fertilizer, the government plans to establish warehouses to stock at least 25,000 tonnes of fertilizer in all seven provinces. The government will take on board the private sector and cooperatives for this purpose. Plans are afoot to launch a programme to conserve traditional Nepali seeds.

The government plans to formulate a master plan to make Karnali an organic province and Province 2 a special food producing area. The government has once again talked about fixing the minimum support price of key crops although it has repeatedly failed to announce the floor price since the programme was launched three years ago.

With increased productivity, the government has planned to make the country self-reliant in potato, onion, chili and other green vegetables within three years. Under the public-private-partnership model, the government has promised building warehouses with a capacity of storing 100,000 tonnes of food in all seven provinces. 

To promote farm mechanization, the government has launched a plan to revive Agricultural Tools Factory in Birgunj by making timely changes in its structure. Likewise, soil health cards will be distributed in all local levels and soil health maps will be prepared.

As Nepal imports nearly 500,000 goats and sheep from India annually to fulfil its meat requirement, the government has planned to increase meat production and substitute imports by 75 percent within five years. Imports of maize and soybean that are used for making livestock feed will be reduced by one-third within the next five years by launching programmes to boost production of these crops. 

Special youth programmes will be launched to attract the young generation to farming. The government plans to provide 70 percent subsidy on agriculture commercial project plans launched by youths in a bid to retain them in the country. The government plans to distribute farmers’ identity cards based on production and resources in the next two years.

Similarly, the government has planned to launch a pension scheme for poor farmers. The scheme will be based on farmers’ contribution. As Nepal’s agriculture land has been turning into concrete due to fast spreading urbanization, the government plans to implement a Land Use Policy and Land Use Act within the next six months. The policy will divide land into different categories like farm, industrial and others. The policy aims to discourage the practice of keeping land fallow and stop haphazard land plotting.

In order to double women’s ownership of land from the existing 25.7 percent to 50 percent, the government plans to provide a 40 percent discount on the land registration fee if the land is owned by a woman or husband and wife jointly. If the family land is owned by a woman, a special discount will be provided on the fees for any of the services provided by the government.

In the next fiscal year, the government will make an effort to run Birgunj Sugar Mills and Lumbini Sugar Mills under the cooperative model. In the next six months, the government will distribute poor identity cards to 391,831 families in 26 districts. The scheme will be started in the remaining 51 districts within the next two years.

THE KEY

  • NARC to be given status of Deemed University in order to promote research
  • Doubling the number of improved breeds of cow and buffalo within five years
  • Establishing warehouses to stock 25,000 tonnes of fertilizer in all provinces
  • Formulate master plan to make Karnali an organic province
  • Province 2 to be promoted as special food producing area
  • Making country self-reliant in green vegetables within three years
  • Building warehouses to store 100,000 tonnes of food in all provinces
  • Soil health cards to be distributed in all local levels
  • Increase meat production to substitute imports by 75 percent within five years
  • 70 percent subsidy on agro commercial project plans launched by youths
  • Farmers’ identity card to be distributed in next two years
  • Launch pension scheme for poor farmers
  • Implement Land Use Policy and Land Use Act within six months
  • 40 percent discount on land registration fee if the land belongs to women
  • Make effort to run Birgunj Sugar Mills and Lumbini Sugar Mills under cooperative model

Published: 07-05-2018 10:15

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