Nepal ready to supply tomatoes to India to ease price rise, seeks easier access to market

Nepal plans to export tomatoes to India to counter high prices, but seeks convenient market access and facilities.

Edited By Fareha Naaz
First Published12 Aug 2023
Nepal plans to export tomatoes to India to counter high prices, but requests convenient market access and facilities.
Nepal plans to export tomatoes to India to counter high prices, but requests convenient market access and facilities.

Nepal is prepared to address the soaring tomato prices in India by offering bulk exports on a long-term basis. However, Nepal seeks easy market access and essential facilities as prerequisites for this initiative.

The assurance from Nepal follows a statement by India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who disclosed that India has begun importing tomatoes from Nepal due to record-high prices caused by supply disruptions from heavy rains. High retail prices of around 242 per kg has led India to import tomatoes for the first time amid supply disruptions caused by heavy rains.

Nepal is keen to export vegetables, particularly tomatoes, to India over the long term. However, this endeavour is contingent upon India providing straightforward market access and necessary facilities, according to Shabnam Shivakoti, spokesperson for Nepal's Agriculture Ministry told PTI on August 11.

While Nepal has already initiated tomato exports to India via official channels in the past week, the quantities remain modest. Plans for larger-scale exports are still in progress. “If we are provided with easy access to the Indian market, Nepal can export huge quantities of tomatoes to India,” said Binaya Shrestha, Deputy Director at Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market Development Board.

Tomatoes are grown abundantly in the Kathmandu Valley's districts—Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur—exceeding local demand. Though some tomatoes from Kathmandu are being unofficially exported to India, Shrestha acknowledged, a recent trend has seen substantial exports through informal channels, causing shortages and price spikes in the local market.

Also read: Tomatoes to be sold at 70/kg, Finance Minster Nirmala says ‘people need essentials at an affordable price’

The Nepalese tomato market faced challenges in the past, with farmers discarding significant amounts due to lack of demand. However, the scenario reversed with illegal exports to India, causing a surge in prices after traders started exporting tomatoes to India through illegal channels causing shortages in the local market. Tomato were previously sold in the retail market for 40-50 per kg soared to 200 to 250 per kg when farmers started selling tomatoes to the Indian market through unofficial channels.

Exported tomatoes to India, primarily through unofficial routes, soared to 70,000 to 90,000 kg daily, fetching up to 150 per kg, according to Badri Shrestha, a major tomato grower in Kathmandu. Nepal has appealed to Indian authorities for quarantine and related facilities to export not only tomatoes but also peas and green peppers.

Also read: Mint Explainer: Why are tomato prices shooting up again?

In response to Nepal's efforts, India has included certain Nepalese vegetable items, including tomatoes, in its quarantine list, facilitating exports. Agriculture Minister Beduram Bhushal held discussions on facilitating Nepalese agricultural products, including tomatoes, to India with his Indian counterpart Narendra Singh Tomar during his visit in July.

Since July 11, the National Cooperative Consumers' Federation of India Limited (NCCF) has sold around 9,38,862 kg of tomatoes at discounted rates in Delhi-NCR, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. About 10 tonnes of tomatoes imported from Nepal are en route to Uttar Pradesh for distribution at a subsidized rate of 70 per kg NCCF's Managing Director Anice Joseph Chandra said on Friday. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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