By Laxman Kafle Kathmandu, Apr. 26: The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development expressed its serious concern over the reduction of budget ceiling to the ministry in the upcoming budget. According to an official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, the budget limit has been reduced in agriculture sector at a time when the government aims at making the country self-reliant in agro products. The reduction of budget will directly affect the government’s objective to make the country self-reliant in agriculture and discourage the farmers in commercial farming in lack of required facilities, said Dr. Shree Ram Ghimire, spokesperson at the Ministry. The budget ceiling has been reduced by Rs. 5 billion for the next fiscal year compared to the budget of the current fiscal year. Ghimire said that Rs. 37 billion has been allocated for the agriculture sector in the current fiscal year and a ceiling of Rs. 32 billion has been set for the coming fiscal year. “The regular programmes and facilities are likely to be hampered after the reduction in the budget ceiling as there is no possibility to reduce the recurrent expenditure like salaries of the staffers,” he told The Rising Nepal. Around 40 per cent of the total budget allocation used to be spent for agricultural programmes, he said. According to him, the Ministry of Finance has told them that the government has reduced the budget ceiling to agriculture giving a top priority to the control of COVID-19. Although health should be a top priority in the midst of a pandemic, it would not be appropriate to give low priority to agriculture, he added. "Even in the midst of the COVID-19, the budget for the agriculture sector was not reduced last year, but the ceiling this time is reduced by five billion rupees," Ghimire said. “This will affect the subsidy programme for the farmers.” Stating that additional budget is required to increase the supply of chemical fertilisers, provide quality seeds and adopt the modern tools to enhance agriculture production, he said that it would be impossible to run many of the existing programmes in lack of budget. “We have to increase premium in agricultural crops to cover their risk as the agriculture sector has been facing loss of billions of rupees due to natural disasters and farmers are being discouraged to engage in agriculture. So, additional budget is a must to enhance competitiveness of our production,” he said. The Ministry has demanded an additional budget of Rs. 5 billion for agriculture, he said. Agriculture Secretary Dr. Yogendra Kumar Karki had talked with the Ministry of Finance urging the latter not to cut the budget, he said. “The ministry’s officials had also held discussions with the Chief Secretary to increase budget for the agriculture sector.” He said that the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development was lobbying with the concerned ministry to increase budget and continue the existing pro-farmer programmes. He said, “It is necessary to increase the budget for the overall development of agriculture. We are confident that the budget will be increased as the government has also given priority to agriculture. ” The government has announced to make the country self-reliant in agriculture within five years but it will not be possible to achieve the target by cutting the budget, he said. Adequate budget is required to achieve the goal of becoming self-sufficient in cereals and milk while the country has already become self-reliant in meat and eggs.