Agri Ministry says it needs Rs38b to go into high gear

KATHMANDU, APR 17: The Ministry of Agricultural Development said that it would require budget  funding of Rs38 billion in the next fiscal year 2015-16 to attain high economic growth through intensive and accelerated growth in the farm sector.

Likewise, it has proposed to spend Rs44 billion in fiscal 2016-17 and Rs50 billion in fiscal 2017-18 to achieve its objectives.

The National Planning Commission (NPC) has set a Rs28.27 billion ceiling for the ministry for the upcoming budget . The government has allocated Rs23.28 billion for the farm sector for this fiscal year.

Briefing the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resources Committee on Thursday, Agriculture Minister Hari Prasad Parajuli said that the country’s dependency on imported agricultural products was growing at an alarming rate.

“To make the country self-sufficient in food, we need to boost production and productivity,” Parajuli told lawmakers. “To achieve the goal of self-sufficiency, the government needs to increase investment in the farm sector significantly.”

The House panel had invited the ministry to discuss its budget preparations and allocations for the programmes and projects of the next fiscal year.

“As the government has aimed to upgrade the country’s status from least developed country to developing country by 2022, investment in the agriculture sector is crucial for meeting the target as it is the major contributor to the country’s economy,” Parajuli said.

The ministry said that it had accorded priority to increasing youth entrepreneurship in the farm sector, and raising the target for agriculture credit and subsidies to needy farmers in the upcoming budget .

As the cooperative movement has brought substantial changes in rural economies, the ministry said that it had given priority to public cooperatives partnership model in the farm sector.

Similarly, the ministry told the parliamentary committee that it would be adopting various projects for agriculture commercialization by increasing agriculture technology as per the needs of the times.

With a view to building the capacities of the government and farmers, the ministry said it would be cooperating with various countries for training and exchanging know-how. For example, it would be adopting modern farm technology from Israel, hybrid technology from China, agribusiness management from China and agriculture marketing and post-harvest technology from Thailand.

Likewise, the ministry said that it would assure adequate supply of chemical fertilizers for farmers. It has planned to distribute 500,000 tonnes of fertilizers and 10,000 tonnes of improved seeds to farmers at subsidized rates.

The country’s paddy import bill currently stands at Rs14 billion annually, and the ministry plans to bring this down to Rs6 billion by the next fiscal year by implementing various programmes, it said. The paddy import bill is projected to shrink to Rs2 billion in 2016-17, and by 2017-18, the country is expected to be able to export paddy worth Rs 3 billion.

Likewise, the government plans to reduce the maize import bill to Rs2.5 billion in 2015-16 and to Rs2 billion and Rs1 billion by 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively. Currently, the country imports maize worth Rs5 billion annually.

The ministry said that Nepal would be able to export vegetables worth Rs130 million in the next fiscal year by encouraging growers to adopt commercial vegetable farming as this sector had great scope.

Currently, annual vegetable imports amount to Rs180 million. The ministry has envisioned exporting vegetables worth Rs440 million in 2016-17 and Rs830 million in 2017-18.