Print Edition - 2015-03-09 | MONEY
Agricultural tractors’ misuse rampant
Mar 8, 2015-
Tractors imported free of duty for use in farming are being misused as freight carriers in the eastern Tarai. The government has exempted value added tax (VAT) and charges only 5 percent customs duty on this agricultural machinery in a bid to promote mechanized farming in the country, but there has been growing exploitation of this facility.
Morang Chief District Officer Ganesh Raj Karki said that the local administration had moved to take stringent measures to discourage misuse of the tractors imported under such preferential treatment.
“We are going to create a provision requiring a recommendation from the local Agriculture Office for farm tractors to get customs clearance,” Karki said. “Our monitoring shows that the trackers have been misused as they have reached the hands of traders instead of farmers.”
Brick factories in particular are using tractors meant for farming on a massive scale to transport their products. Five to 15 tractors can be seen being used at each brick kiln to carry bricks to market in the eastern Tarai. There are more than 100 brick factories in Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa districts. During the first seven months of the current fiscal year, 885 tractors were imported through Biratnagar Customs. Imports amounted to 973 tractors during the same period in the last fiscal year.
According to the Biratnagar Customs Office, a total of 20,000 tractors have been imported through this customs office over the last 15 years. Presently, around 90 percent of these tractors are in the possession of brick factories and transport operators, sources said.
The area of arable land in the eastern Tarai, which encompasses Morang, Sunsari, Jhapa, Saptari and Siraha districts, amounts to 256,475 hectares, said the Regional Agriculture Directorate. A tractor can be used to farm 100 hectares of land in a year, according to Nepal Agriculture Company.
Considering the extent of the cultivable fields, 4,000 tractors are ample for all of the eastern Tarai. However, tractors are not being used on even half of the farmland in the region due to the tradition of using buffalos and oxen for tilling, pointing to the gross misuse of agricultural machinery for other purposes.
Until one and a half decades ago, tractor importers had to get a recommendation from the village development committee that the potential importer was a farmer.
The Agricultural Development Bank would then issue a coupon to import it. Presently, these procedures have been abandoned to facilitate tractor imports.
Published: 09-03-2015 08:53