Agro products top import list

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu
Imports of raw and processed agro products accounted for 17.47 percent of the total imports of Rs784.58 billion in the last fiscal year 2014-15

Nov 27, 2015-Nepal imported agro products worth Rs137.12 billion in the last fiscal year 2014-15, setting off concern that the agrarian country’s dependence on imported farm products was ballooning out of control.

The jump in shipments has pushed agro commodities to the top of the list of imports, knocking petroleum products from the number one spot. 

Imports of raw and processed agro products accounted for 17.47 percent of the total imports of Rs784.58 billion, according to the statistics of the Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC). The value of oil imports during the review period stood at Rs112.16 billion.  

Experts said that a swelling middle class, expanding population and stagnant local agricultural production were driving up Nepal’s food imports. 

The growth is unlikely to stop amid projections of a poor summer crop harvest and increased migration of farm labour to foreign job destinations as the farm sector has started losing its charm due to the low rate of return. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has projected that Nepal’s cereal imports are expected to swell to a record 855,800 tonnes in 2015-16, a whopping 35 percent jump over last year’s level due to the reduced production in 2015 and sustained demand.

The stats show that agro imports have swelled threefold during the last six years. 

The food import bill in 2009-10 amounted to Rs44.43 billion, which jumped to Rs76.05 billion and Rs99.35 billion in 2011-12 and 2012-13 respectively. It further ballooned to Rs127.51 billion in 2013-14. 

“Agriculture suffered from neglect for decades. This situation was bound to arise as we have failed to boost output,” said agro expert Dev Bhakta Shakya. “Six or seven years ago, when I informed the government that Nepal had started importing rice, I was criticized. Now, food imports have risen to alarming levels.” 

He added that lack of investment would derail efforts to enable farmers to feed future generations in the face of climate change. 

“The implementation of the ambitious Agriculture Development Strategy has raised our hopes that the farm sector will get back on track, but the government needs to bring the private sector, donors and cooperatives on board,” he said. 

The statistics show that cereals top the list of agro imports followed by fat and edible oil, vegetable, fruit and nut, animal fodder, oil seed and coffee and tea spice.

Nepal imported cereals worth Rs35.12 billion in the last fiscal year. Out of the total shipments, rice and paddy amounted to Rs14.78 billion (338,512 tonnes) and Rs9.01 billion (345,618 tonnes) respectively.  

Maize imports amounted to 290,993 tonnes worth Rs7.43 billion. More than 95 percent of the rice and maize imports came from India.

Edible oil is the second largest agro import. Shipments of soybean oil amounted to Rs12.48 billion. Argentina is the top exporter of soybean oil to Nepal, followed by Brazil and Paraguay. Likewise, crude palm oil shipments amounted to Rs4.96 billion. Indonesia is the top exporter of crude palm oil to Nepal.  The TEPC’s stats show that Nepal imported vegetables worth Rs15.93 billion in the last fiscal year. Of the total imports, potato and onion amounted to Rs5.09 billion and Rs3 billion respectively. Potato and onion are mostly imported from India. 

Likewise, imports of dried pea and chickpea amounted to Rs1.73 billion and Rs1.18 billion respectively. Canada and Australia are the top exporters of dry pea and chickpea respectively to Nepal. 

Although government officials claim that Nepal is self-sufficient in lentils, the country imported 23,823 tonnes of lentils valued at Rs1.75 billion from Canada in the last fiscal year. 

Meanwhile, imports of fruit and nut amounted to Rs10.54 billion. Nepal imported 37,969 tonnes of betel nuts worth Rs4.72 billion, mostly from Indonesia. Likewise, Nepal imported 46,970 tonnes of apples worth Rs1.98 billion. Imports from China came to Rs1.14 billion. 

According to the TEPC, animal fodder is among the top five imports. Nepal imported Rs10.02 billion worth of fodder during the review period, including Rs6.05 billion worth of oil cakes. Likewise, shipments of oil seeds and coffee and tea spices stood at Rs9.11 billion and Rs4.27 billion respectively.

Published: 27-11-2015 09:01

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