Food imports balloon as local output stalls

- THAKUR SINGH THARU, BANKE

Oct 15, 2016-

Imports of vegetables and other farm products through Nepalgunj Customs have soared as local production has fallen amid swelling demand, local stakeholders said.

Banke’s fertile farmlands used to produce sufficient vegetables and other agriculture commodities to fulfill the requirement of the Mid-Western Region, but a drop in productivity has forced traders to resort to large-scale imports from India.

According to the District Agriculture Office Nepalgunj, shipments of vegetables and other food items through the border point amounted to Rs4.06 billion in the last fiscal year. Rice imports stood at Rs1.46 billion. 

Similarly, corn and wheat imports totalled Rs970 million. As per office records, imports of potato and onion stood at Rs440 million and Rs101.5 million respectively.

Vegetable, potato and onion imports, in particular, surge during the festival season. According to the office, traders have been importing seven to eight truckloads of vegetables daily through the customs point. 

“As the start of the planting season coincides with the festival season, demand for these farm products has surged recently,” said Krishna Bahadur Basnet, chief of the office. The imported vegetables are shipped mainly to the hill districts in the Mid-Western Region besides Kathmandu and Pokhara. 

Hirminiya, Kamdi, Udharapur, Paraspur, Udayapur, Nauwasta and Bageshwori are the largest producers of vegetables in Banke district. However, soaring demand has outstripped output. 

As per the Plant Quarantine Office in Nepalgunj, imports of egg plant and beans amounted to Rs15.2 million in the last fiscal year. Similarly, fruit imports through the border point stood at Rs195.2 million.

Meanwhile, goat imports for Dashain through the border point totalled Rs150 million. As per traders, the figure could double by the end of Tihar. 

Hari Lal Jaisi, an official at the Animal Quarantine Office in Nepalgunj, said traders had imported 22,622 goats till date. “The trend will continue till Tihar,” he said. 

Last year, traders imported 163,000 goats through the customs point. “Low livestock production in the region has led to growing dependency on imports from India,” Jaisi said. According to him, traders import goats from Maharashtra, Kanpur, Lakhimpur, Gorakhpur and Lucknow in India. 

Published: 15-10-2016 08:44

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