For more than a week now, sugarcane farmers from the southern district of Sarlahi have continued their peaceful demonstration in the heart of Kathmandu so as to press the government about the issue and help them recover unpaid dues for their sugarcane sold to the sugar mills.
More than 300 farmers voluntarily poured into the valley, and injustice that they are bearing seems to be more apparent to the entire nation as they continue staging sit-in protests. They have presented their ultimatum that their dues worth more than 480 million rupees, put on hold since past six years, be paid at the earliest.
Being agriculture based economy, it is a shame that poor farmers are unpaid for their sweats by the mill owners in whom we can see the signs of feudal lords that the world already ousted.
As envisaged by Karl Marx, the proletariat class of farmers seems to be exploited by bourgeoisie class. No one knows better than the members of the ruling Nepal Communist Party that it is this kind of suppressed voices that can trigger a wave of protests and instability in the society.
The government had initiated a credible task by bringing Sugarcane Struggle Committee to the table back on January 1 and promised that it would help recover the due payments within the span of a month. Last December too, hundreds of farmers had made a way to the capital to seek the government’s initiative in getting recoveries of sugarcane sold.
Meanwhile, the police have issued arrest warrants against the owners of four sugar mills for not paying the sugarcane farmers. This initiation from the states side has ignited a ray of hope that the 5-point agreement that the farmers had signed back in January is likely to be implemented.
It seems to be the appropriate way to boost the morale of all farmers in a nation where the majority of the population is involved in farming and livestock rearing and yet large volumes of agro based products are imported.
Reports show that over 65 per cent of the population is involved in agriculture that contributes 31.7 per cent to GDP. The seasonal nature of cultivation results in widespread underemployment. However, programmes to grow cash crops and incentivise small and cottage industries have had some fruits over the years.
Nepal’s agriculture suffers from low investment, restricted research and scant inputs, technology and incentives for farmers.
Reports show that import of agro-goods has hit all-time high crossing Rs. 250 billion swelling by 21 per cent in the current fiscal year 2019-20 owing to the country’s import promoting policies, high production costs and change in consumer behaviour, amongst other factors. The agricultural goods imports bill back in 2009-10 amounted to just Rs. 44.43 billion which clearly reflects that the import trend has skyrocketed in 10 years growing by almost six times.
Experts argue that it is the outcome of multiple factors including timely unavailability of key inputs such as chemical fertilizers, seed, irrigation, finance, labour, technology diffusion and infrastructure like roads, energy and ICT that makes cost of production high in Nepal. Current government has shown signs of changing the trend by allocating Rs. 41 billion for promotion of agricultural produce and Rs. 27 billion for irrigation alone in the budget of fiscal year 2020/21.