Seeds of development

  • After focusing on breaking transport cartels, govt’s focus on agriculture sector is welcome

May 8, 2018-

After the Oli-led government’s firm stand on breaking the syndicates in the transportation sector,  the Centre has now expanded its focus. It has also targeted the agriculture sector. This is both a laudable and necessary move.

On Sunday, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Management and Cooperatives Chakrapani Khanal announced a new 58-point roadmap to improve Nepal’s agriculture sector in the short, medium and long term. The plan is aimed at increasing productivity, streamlining the supply chain, improving land management and promoting cooperatives. It also plans to alleviate trade barriers, ease raw material supply constraints and make the country self-sufficient—within the next three to five years—on many food groups.

This is an ambitious target. The agriculture sector contributes to 27 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and provides livelihoods to 66 percent of the population.

Yet agriculture is a hugely neglected field by the planners.

Unsurprisingly, most farmers still utilise traditional methods of farming and don’t have access to technological advancements that could boost productivity. Nepal’s agricultural imports (accounting for both raw materials and processed goods) are now close to hitting Rs200 billion. To understand the scale of the problem: the import of rice—by and large Nepal’s staple food—has jumped 66 percent in the last two years to Rs16.95 billion in the first seven months of the current fiscal year. The supply chain is also riddled with middlemen that severely limit farmers’ direct access to the market and to revenue.

Another major issue affecting the agro sector is barriers in trade with India that have blocked necessary time sensitive raw material imports and have also barred crop exports. The report of 34,000 tonnes of fertiliser being stuck at the Kolkata port last December comes as a case in point; another recent case is that of ginger, ready for export, being stranded at the border.

Nepal’s reliance on a global tender to secure half of its fertiliser demand has also had a number of impacts on agricultural productivity, as supplies through such tenders are often delayed. It is a good move by the government, then, that they are planning to sign an agreement during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to secure an unobstructed supply of fertiliser from the Indian government itself. Moreover, Nepal government is planning to construct warehouses in each province that can store 25,000 tonnes of fertiliser. It is also planning to limit middlemen’s involvement in the market, while allocating at least 25 percent of the stalls at major Nepali vegetable markets for farmers.

Such measures are welcome and could definitely assist the government in achieving its plans, which mainly concern boosting productivity and reducing losses in the agricultural sector. If these plans are well-implemented, the government will have taken a positive step towards addressing issues in an important sector that provides two-thirds of the country with a livelihood.

Published: 08-05-2018 08:20

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