Regulatory body to be set up to oversee organic farming

- RAJESH KHANAL, Kathmandu

May 2, 2019-

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development is moving to regulate organic farming as farmer groups and political leaders have been declaring chemical free zones haphazardly, and consumers are being fobbed off with products incorrectly labelled organic.

Two months ago, the government formed a taskforce under Agriculture Minister Chakra Pani Khanal to develop policy to oversee organic farming across the country. The 15-member panel, that includes nine experts from the sector, will urge the government to form an autonomous body to look after various aspects of organic agricultural practices.

Ganga Dutta Acharya, under-secretary of the ministry, said the panel would recommend forming standards and a regulatory body to address the unwise practice of declaring organic farming zones without making the necessary preparation. “We will recommend to the government to form an independent board through the federal budget for the next fiscal year,” said Acharya who is also the member-secretary of the taskforce.

The government’s move follows increasing instances of consumers being cheated by agro product suppliers who pass off farm products grown using artificial fertiliser as organic products. According to the ministry, the government declared Jumla district an organic zone a decade ago, but it has been allocating a large budget to supply chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the district.

Last year, the government of Karnali Province also decided to develop the region as a fully organic province. But the government does not have clear guidelines on how to make the region fully chemical free.

There is no government mechanism to verify whether a product labelled as organic is chemical free or not. Due to this reason, consumers are being made to pay a premium price for farm products grown using artificial fertiliser, and they also face the risk of consuming foods contaminated with chemicals.

Acharya said the government would implement standards that would bar sales of chemicals in areas proclaimed as organic.

“In addition, the government will transfer funds being provided for chemical fertilisers and pesticides to manure production in the concerned region.”

The government in its budget statement for fiscal 2018-19 has prioritised organic production of agricultural goods.

The budget has also targeted setting up factories producing organic fertilisers in collaboration with cooperatives and the private sector. In addition, the government has planned to allocate grants to establish one biological pesticide laboratory in each province. “An effective regulation system will be established to promote food hygiene and quality,” the budget statement said.

The proposed board will also be mandated to check the quality of the manure used in organic farming. “The board could also devise separate standards allowing farmers to use small amounts of chemicals as completely replacing chemical fertiliser by natural fertiliser may cause a sharp decline in harvests,” said Krishna Prasad Paudel, an agricultural expert and member of the panel.

The government has banned the use of 21 chemicals including chlorden, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, aldrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphen, BHC, lindane, phosphamidon, organomercury fungicide, methyl parathion and monocrotophos as they can create a long-term impact on humans and the environment, but farmers have been using them rampantly on their fields.

Nepal spends more than Rs12 billion every year to purchase farm use chemicals. According to government statistics, organic farming is being done on less than 1 percent of the 2.11 million hectares of arable land in the country.

Published: 02-05-2019 09:08

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