Potato, onion worth above Rs. 14 billion imported

Kathmandu, Aug. 2 : Every year, the country has been spending billions of rupees to import potatoes and onions to meet the local demand.

Potatoes and onions worth Rs. 14.53 billion were imported in the last fiscal year 2021/22, according to annual statistics of the Department of Customs.

The statistics showed that potatoes worth Rs. 8.18 billion and onions worth Rs. 6.17 billion were imported in the fiscal year 2021/22.

Out of this, potatoes worth Rs. 7.91 billion were imported from India and worth Rs. 272 million from Bangladesh.

Potatoes worth Rs. 7.30 billion had been imported over the fiscal year 2020/21. Similarly, onions worth Rs. 5.95 billion had been imported in the previous fiscal year 2020/21.

The import of potatoes and onions slightly increased during the last fiscal year as compared to the previous fiscal year.

Basu Dev Kaphle, Chief of National Centre for Potato, Vegetables and Spice Crop Development, said that the import of potatoes and onions was still high despite the huge potential for potato production in the country due to various reasons.

However, local production of potatoes fulfils 90 per cent of the annual consumption whereas the domestic production of onions caters to only 20 per cent of the country’s demand, he said.

Most of the onions are imported from India whereas only a nominal quantity of onion in Nepali market comes from China. Thus, the price of onion in the local market depends on its price in the Indian market.

“Nepal holds good potential for onion production. However, the country is spending billions of rupees for onion import due to low production against growing demand caused by changing food habits of the people,” he said.

The country will depend on import for onion until and unless production is increased by encouraging farmers towards commercial production of onion, he said.

However, the local production of onions has been increasing over the last few years. Around 290,000 tonnes of onions are being produced in about 20,400 hectares of land annually.

The government has been conducting various programmes in potential districts to increase the productivity and production of potatoes, Kaphle said.

According to him, quality seeds, irrigation and mechansation were necessary for increasing productivity of crops and vegetables including potatoes.

Lack of approved technologies for potato production and varieties of quality seeds as per the nature of soil and duration are main problems for the development of potatoes, he said.

The price fluctuating in the main potato production districts and area is also discouraging farmers to cultivate potatoes commercially, he said.

The government has given priority to the development and expansion of potato production pockets in the potential areas, improvement of potato seed production system (TPS and PBS) from private and public sector and their quality control, technical backstopping on production of seed potato, their storage and distribution to the farmers, publication and distribution of extension materials to growers for technology delivery for potato production.

The annual requirement of potatoes is around 3.4 million tonnes and around 3.1 million tonnes are being produced in the country.

The potato is cultivated on around 188,000 hectares of land.

-The Rising Nepal

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