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Nepali vegetables rot in fields as cheap Indian products capture market



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By Hari Prasad Koirala, Urlabari, Feb. 24: Due to the import of cheaper tomatoes from India, the produce of Nepali farmers has been rotting away in their fields. During the second week of January the tomatoes used to be sold for Rs. 20 a kg and by the third week, the price plummeted to Rs 10 a kg.

The drop in prices of broccoli, cabbages and potatoes due to cheap Indian imports have left the Nepali farmers agitated. The farmers of eastern and northern Morang have said that more than compost, seeds and technology they need the provincial government to facilitate better conditions in the market.

Tek Bahadur Nirauala of Jaate in Letang Municipality- 8 says that he cannot sell his tomatoes at even Rs. 10 per kg anymore. Niraula who usually earns three lakh rupees a year from his four Kattha fields has said that till now no traders have to buy his tomatoes.

The Pathshala Agricultural Cooperative of Urlabari Municipality– 6 said that they would be in a loss of 7 lakh rupees by the end of the year. Chairperson Durga Prasad Khatiwada said that from 1000 tomato saplings they get about 70,000 kilograms of tomatoes. To date, they have not been able to sell tomatoes worth even Rs. 100,000.

The harvest of the tomatoes started in the second week of January. Since then tomatoes worth rupees six a kg started entering the Nepali markets from India.

Till today we have not been able to sell the tomatoes at even Rs. 10 a kg. It has been exhausting to conduct business when India can sell its tomatoes at Rs. 6 per kg, chairperson Khatiwada said.

He also said that it costs about Rs 13 a kg for those farmers who grow tomatoes on their own land. For those farmers who have used land on lease, they have to sell the tomatoes for Rs. 25 a kg. Khatiwada added that during the first week they had to sell their tomatoes for 35 rupees per kilogram. Urlabari– 6 situated Pathshala agricultural cooperative said that their tomatoes are red and ripe but there is no business.   

In the Haat Bazaars (weekly fair markets) from Sunday to Tuesday, the cost of tomatoes per kg Rs. 25, trader Gajendra Adhikari said. Since Nepali produce is expensive it is more profitable to sell Indian tomatoes, Adhikari viewed.

The farmers said that the tomatoes are imported from adjoining Indian villages near Morang and Jhapa districts and not from Biratnagar or Kakadvitta border.

Balkrishna Rajbanshee, a farmer at Pathari Sanischare Municipality-6, said that he would be selling his potatoes and cauliflower for Rs. 50 per kg at this time last year. Similarly, he would get Rs. 50 for a kg of tomatoes, Rs. 20 for radish and Rs. 60 for a kg of broccoli.

Even the farmers who sell their own produce at the retail market are not satisfied. Indrajit Mandal, a farmer who grows his produce and sells it in the market, said that vegetables are brought to Nepal in the same milk can that is used to export milk to India. “Almost everything is cheaper in India, how can we compete with them?” asked Mandal.