Friday, June 25, 2021

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High-level talks being held to keep the food coming


High-level talks are being held with India to ensure continuous food shipments as concerns rise in import-dependent Nepal that the Covid-19 crisis there may disrupt supply, the Ministry of Industry, Supplies and Commerce said.

Both countries are grappling with ever rising coronavirus caseloads while the southern neighbour is in the midst of its worst pandemic situation, with daily new infections crossing the 400,000 mark.

Nepal relies heavily on food imports, especially from India, and there are fears that the food supply chain could be hit.

“We will not let problems occur in the supply of food; and for that, discussions are being conducted at the higher levels,” Narayan Prasad Regmi, joint secretary of the Industry Ministry, told the Post.

“There is no problem with food deliveries from India, and we do not expect any hindrances to the regular flow in the coming days too,” he said. "The production of essential food items is going on smoothly in Nepal and India, and the supply system will run continuously," he said.

Most of Nepal's cereal requirement is fulfilled by imports, mainly from India.

According to the Trade and Export Promotion Centre, cereal imports rose sharply by 46.3 percent year-on-year to Rs59.73 billion during the period mid-July to mid-March of the current fiscal year.

 

During the same period in the last fiscal year, Nepal bought cereals valued at Rs40.82 billion. The country's imports of cereals amounted to Rs56.88 billion in the whole of the last fiscal year 2019-20.

“We are alert that no problems occur in supply management and there are no obstacles in the supply of food items from India,” said Dinesh Bhattarai, commerce and supply secretary at the Industry Ministry.

"The ministry has been working to ease supply, transportation and distribution," he said, adding that this will help to enlarge food reserves and ensure that a shortage situation will not occur.

The southern border with India has been closed to all foreigners, but transport personnel like drivers and conductors are allowed to enter Nepal, he said.

“There is no need to panic because the private sector and the government hold a huge stock of food items,” he said.

According to the Industry Ministry's food stocks data as of May 5, state-owned Food Management and Trading Company has 104,656 quintals of rice in stock, and another 50,000 quintals is being procured through competitive bidding.

Its warehouses contain 176,885 quintals of paddy, 11,590 quintals of wheat, 51,554 tonnes of salt and 50,923 tonnes of sugar.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, 29 truckloads of rice, three truckloads of paddy, 21 truckloads of sugar, 16 truckloads of lentils, 18 truckloads of fruits, 67 truckloads of vegetables, and 22 truckloads of ghee and edible oil arrived in the Kathmandu Valley.

On Wednesday, 243 tankers loaded with petroleum products entered Nepal through different trade points on the southern border.

"Nepali mills producing rice, lentils, edible oil and flour have sufficient inventory so problems in supply of food items are unlikely to occur," said Devendra Bhakta Shrestha, president of the Nepal Wholesalers Association.

Domestic wholesalers and retailers have food items enough for at least three months, he said. Mill owners have sufficient stocks of paddy purchased from India, and they also import rice from India and sell it by branding it, he said.

India reported 412,262 new cases and 3,980 deaths on Thursday with the number of cases and death increasing daily. The country has imposed partial and full lockdown in different states to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Published : May 09, 2021

By : The Kathmandu Post / ANN