Laxmi Capital News
Priority for agro-product exports limited to paper only

Boostingagricultural production and exports for narrowing the trade deficit arepriorities in all periodic plans and fiscal policies, but these prioritiesnever get implemented in reality. Ginger is among several competitive productsaffected by such inaction. 

India blocked theexport of Nepali ginger at  Kakarbhitta customs from Monday, and this isthe second time an item with utmost potential for export to India has runinto a hurdle over the last six months. The Indian authorities have not clearlystated the reason behind the obstruction this time.  

Everyone knowsthere are mainly two problems involved -- lack of sanitary and phytosanitary(relating to plants)   measures and export of only raw products likeunwashed ginger. Lacking is a lab for testing and certification, as per theglobally accepted practice. But the government tends to scramble into aresponse only when a problem surfaces, according to economists and private sectorofficials. 

Besides ginger,tea, beetle nuts and several other agricultural products time and again facesimilar non-tariff barriers in India, but only blaming the Indians doesn'tsolve the problem, say experts.  To make matters worse, the only ginger washingplant, which is at  Duwagadhi in Jhapa, remains idle while the countryeven exports unwashed ginger to India citing the plant's low capacity. 

Nepal should adoptGood Agricultural Practices (GAP) for making its products acceptable to Indiaand other countries rather than just blaming others, said Posh Raj Pandey, atrade expert and executive chairman of South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics andEnvironment (SAWTEE). 

GAP is aglobally-accepted method endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Organization ofthe United Nations for application to on-farm production and post-productionprocesses, and it results in safe and healthy food and non-food agriculturalproducts, while also taking into account economical, social and environmentalsustainability.

About 80 percentof the total ginger production is exported to India, and it is one of the topexports of the country. Ginger worth Rs 232 million was exported in fiscal year2016/17, a negative growth of 55 percent in terms of value compared to theprevious year. Nepal is the third largest ginger producer after Brazil andIndia. It is the third largest agriculture product exported to India aftercardamom and jute.

 Pandey said that neither the government  nor the private sector is serious about addressing the issue and going for a standard way ofexporting goods rather than depending on the mercy of India, which tends toobstruct such products to protect its own farmers. One thing Nepal can do isset up  standard sanitary and phytosantiry labs which  can past musterwith India, as well as go for processing to earn more foreign currency throughvalue adding . 

Governmentofficials say they are taking the issue seriously but the current problem cameabout due to the largely informal mode of trading, which is controlled bymiddlemen. They also spoke of the need for integrated effort by severalentities dealing with ginger or any other agro product. Private sectorofficials also say that the government's weak diplomacy leads to this kind ofproblem time and again. “Problems for our products occur time and again but thegovernment's weak diplomatic dealings and lobbying with Indian counterparts ismainly to blame,” said Hemant K Dabadi, former director general of theFederation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI). 

“Indian importerswho buy Nepali ginger are not licensed importers and the local units of FNCCIare carelessly issuing certificates of origin,” said Rabi Shankar Sainju,spokesperson at the Ministry of Commerce. 

“We are reallyconcerned about the problems farmers have to face because of the blockage of ginger exports,” said Sainju adding that they will discuss the matter ata Nepal-India bilateral meeting in March on issues of trade and commerce . 

India had blockedexports of Nepali ginger for three weeks in July last year also, allegingadulteration with the mixing of Chinese ginger. Exports resumed after a labreport rejected sanitary and phytosanitary issues. 

In the past also,India had imposed quotas on Nepali vegetable ghee. 

Source: MyRepublica, 25th January 2018


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