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Parliamentary committee questions donors’ commitment to farm sector

A parliamentary committee has asked to appear donors to clarify their commitment to Nepal’s agriculture policy.
Agriculture and Water Resources Committee today has decided to seek donors’ explanation in draft Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS).
The draft 20-year agriculture development vision with 10-year planning horizon for the farm sector is prepared with the technical support of Asian Development Bank (ADB). A dozen development partners like the IFAD, EU, FAO, USAID, JICA, WFP, DANIDA, SDC, DFID, AusAid and UN Women – who are involved in drafting the ADS – have also promised to help implement the ambitious policy.
The plan that envisages the ambitious growth pattern in output and land and labour productivity is going to supersede the current Agriculture Perspective Plan by 2015.
As the Agriculture Perspective Plan (1995-2015) failed due to low investment, we have sought explanation how the mistake be corrected, said the chairman of the committee Gagan Thapa, here today.
The earlier mistake has taught us to make certain of resource to get the desired results, he said, adding that we need to ensure substantial bases for investment.
The proposed Agriculture Development Strategy draft has recommended spending Rs 502 billion in 10 years – some Rs 50 billion annually – including the contribution from the private sector and donors. However, it estimates investment of the private sector at only around Rs 5.5 billion a year. “ADS emphasises attracting FDI in agriculture sector but undermines investment from the private sector,” they blamed.
The parliamentary committee wants to be sure the development partners are going to put their money in, Thapa added.
Earlier, the Agriculture Perspective Plan, that was prepared by the ADB, failed to attract investment, also due to a drop in donor support to the agricultural sector after mid-1990s’ economic liberalisation.
However, the Agriculture Development Strategy is expected to attract huge investment from development partners, according to the government.
The Agriculture Development Strategy has aimed at boosting the average annual growth rate to five per cent from the present three per cent for the agricultural sector, and increase land productivity to $5,000 per hectare from the current $1,600. It has also aimed at increasing labour productivity to $2,000 from $800 per worker.
Likewise, the draft Agriculture Development Strategy has planned to increase exports of farm items to $1.6 billion from $250 million.
The document has also envisaged increasing round-the-year irrigation coverage areas to 80 per cent from the current 18 per cent. Similarly, it also plans to halve poverty in less than 10 years through an agriculture-led economy.
The lawmakers in the committee criticised the strategy saying that the vision paper is unrealistic in Nepali context. They also blamed that the vision paper is influenced by donor agencies, and cannot substitute imports.
Nepal imported farm products worth over Rs 100 billion in the last fiscal
year, according to central bank.
Meanwhile, the committee has also decided to discuss the draft ADS extensively with experts for at least a month before giving it the finishing touches.
Currently, the agriculture sector provides employment to 66 per cent of the total population and contributes 33 per cent of the economy.
The document is yet to be endorsed by the cabinet.