Nepal has long been importing fruits and vegetables at a significant scale. Over the last ten months, Nepal imported fruits and vegetables worth RS 40 billion. This happens despite the fact that Nepal's hills and plains feature perfect geographical condition and weather suitable for most of the fruit and vegetables that has been imported. Majority of fruits we import can be grown in Nepal.
Studies show that developing a robust value chain for fruits like apple, mango, litchi, banana, avocado and citrus (Mandarin, lime, lemon) could help in import substitution; and mandarin, kiwi, hogplum, berries, chestnut, pecannut and walnut could be some of the best items to be exported.
At least the economic corridors along the major highways connecting China and India offer a huge potential for agribased business, particularly for fruit and vegetables. The Government of Nepal and many nongovernmental organizations have given special incentives to promote production of fruit and vegetable for the next 30 years or so. While some progress has been achieved in terms of area coverage and total production of fruit and vegetable in the past few years, we are yet to utilize our full potential.
There are some farmers who have invested their energies and efforts in fruit and vegetable farming. However, such practices have been either nonprofessional or in small scale which fails to cater to the demand of even the internal market. A quick scanning of the sector's weak points reveals a major gap: interestingly, very few municipalities and rural municipalities, even around the major economic corridors connecting India and China and those adjoining the Kathmandu valley have an agriculture plan.
A quick survey carried out by the Value Chain Development of Fruit and Vegetables Project under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development reveals that almost none of the 33 municipalities selected as having potential for fruit and vegetable production have any strategic plan for agriculture development. Few municipalities have developed their strategic plans, but agriculture sector has gained least attention. Which means the agriculture sector will continue to be left out in budget allocation.
Representatives of municipalities and rural municipalities, who came together to discuss immediate opportunities and challenges in the agriculture sector at the local level, expressed immense interests in initiating a planned agricultural development. However, in the absence of capable technical staff and support to market provision, the municipalities have not been able to undertake any longterm program for the benefit of local farmers.
Ms. Sunita Kharel, Deputy Mayor of Khairahani Municipality believes a lack of access to market means the farmers are fighting a losing battle. Our Municipality is popular as high vegetables growing area and also has the vegetable pockets but, due to the lack of market provision our farmers continuously lose their confidence in growing vegetables. Farmer do not get reasonable price for their produce and are bound to sell at a very low price which fails to give them a reasonable profit, she said sharing her experience at a workshop, "Prosperity through Agriculture: Visioning by Local Government," organized jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development and UNDP, with funding from KOICA.
Vice Chairperson of Phedikhola Rural Municipality, Ms. Devi Thapa argues without a strategic plan on agriculture development the local governments' efforts will remain adhoc and fail to bring any tangible result. Our rural municipality has high potential in growing fruit. After being elected as a vice chairperson, I was in confusion as to where and how to start in the absence of a strategic plan and without any agriculture technician. But despite all this, we have managed to start up few activities in agriculture sector by hiring some technicians in contract basis.
Source: UNDP in Nepal