Export Potential of Fresh Vegetables to India and Other Countries
South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) organized a national workshop titled “Export Potential of Fresh Vegetables to India and Other Countries” on 30 December 2016 in Kathmandu. The objective of the workshop was to validate the findings of the research carried out by SAWTEE with support from SAMARTH-NMDP. The research was carried out at major custom points in Bhairahawa, Birgunj, Biratnagar, Jhapa, Dhangadi, Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj. The research findings was based on field survey and wider consultation with related stakeholders.
The potential of fresh vegetables to be exported was analysed from the perspective of supply, demand and issues related with the market. Presenting the study findings, Senior Consultant of SAWTEE and Former Commerce Secretary, Mr. Purushottam Ojha pointed out the problems faced by Nepali traders at border crossing for not being able to meet sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards set by India. He opined that proper coordination between India and Nepal mainly in terms of harmonization of Nepali and Indian SPS and technical standards affected vegetable exports. He further added that lack of integrated laboratories for quality certification and the absence of mutual recognition of accreditation between Nepal and India have left Nepali fresh produce export at the mercy of Indian customs offices. Similarly, non-tariff measures which discourage trade through customs have given rise to high incidence of informal trade. The research found that a large amount of fresh vegetables was transported informally through the custom points. Mr. Ojha also insisted on the importance of having proper measures related to Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) to make Nepali vegetables good enough for export not only to India but also to third countries.
Similarly, while presenting the findings, Ms. Neelu Thapa, Programme Coordinator at SAWTEE pointed out that Nepal’s potential for vegetable export remains largely unexploited. Nepali vegetables, such as off-season vegetables, bitter gourd, pointed gourd, sponge gourd, and mustard leaf etc. are preferred by Indian consumers for their better quality and could be sold at a premium price in Indian market. She further added that Bangladesh could emerge as a lucrative market for Nepali fresh vegetables. However, high tariff rate of 25 per cent to enter the Bangladeshi market is a discouraging factor. At the same time, potential for exporting vegetables to countries in the Middle East is also encouraging, provided Nepali suppliers are able to meet their strict sanitary and technical standards. However, inadequacy in proper marketing of the product, from both public and private sectors, was found to be major hindrance for vegetable export. She was of the opinion that the inadequacies of PRA mechanisms are the reasons behind low preferences for Nepali vegetables in the neighbouring markets.
The study suggested measures to develop a concerted action agenda that needs to be followed up in order to address the problems related with exporting vegetables and establishing effective linkages with export markets. The need for capacity building of Nepali farmers and traders on post-harvest operations and other trainings to enable them market their produce was also discussed during the programme.
Speaking at the programme, Commerce Secretary Mr. Naindra Prasad Upadhyay also admitted that Nepal’s inability to meet technical and food quality standard has hampered the Nepali fresh produce exports. He suggested more investment in increasing productive capacity of the vegetable producers to meet the domestic demand and for export and also in improving infrastructure in terms of storage facilities and collection centres so that Nepal could ensure consistent supply of vegetables to the international market without being dependent on seasonal booms.
Likewise, Chairman of SAWTEE, Dr. Posh Raj Pandey urged the stakeholders to develop mechanisms so that Nepali products could comply with the technical standards set by importers in order to capture the markets available for such products. During the interaction, Chief Executive Officer of Federation of Nepali Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Agro Enterprise Centre, Mr. Pradip Maharjan said that attention needs to be given to lack of proper post-harvest handling of fresh produces which makes Nepali products expensive and uncompetitive in comparison to Indian products. Similarly, Mr. Rabi Sainju, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, Ms. Shabnam Shivakoti, Programme Director, Post-harvest Management Directorate, Department of Agriculture and Dr. Hari Dahal, Agriculture Expert and Former Secretary, Government of Nepal also voiced their opinions in the programme.
Ms. Srijana Rana, Agriculture Portfolio Manager at SAMARTH-NMDP, highlighted the importance of vegetables in effective poverty minimization efforts in Nepal.
The event was participated by various organizations, research institutions, agriculture experts, activists and development partners and saw suggestions such as establishing horticulture promotion boards, creating vegetable export zones, implementing Good Agriculture Practices, among others, for the promotion of vegetable export.
Presentation: Purushottam Ojha, Former Secretary, Ministry of Supplies and Commerce and Senior Consultant, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) & Neelu Thapa, Programme Coordinator, SAWTEE