May 9: Food Industries in the country are on the verge of shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The devastating impact of the pandemic is disrupting the movement of workers to the industry which is leading to closure of industries.
Most of the food producing industries related to pulses, rice and oil are located in cities like Biratnagar, Birgunj and Nepalgunj. These cities have the highest rate of COVID-19 infection which is resulting in the shutdown of those industries.
According to Subodh Kumar Gupta, president of the Association of Nepalese Rice, Oil and Pulses Industry, workers are reluctant to come to the industry due to fear of coronavirus infection. Neither is the condition appropriate to make them work in the industries.
About 75 percent of the food industries have been shut down and the rest of the industries are also about to be closed, he said. According to the industrialists, the demand of products has also declined as purchasing power of consumers has declined due to the loss of employment. Gupta said that if the infection rate continues to increase, all the food industries would have to be closed down within the next 15 days.
At present, industries are running in a single shift due to the growing panic among the workers.
Naresh Rathi, proprietor of Chandrashiv Rice and Oil Mill, Biratnagar, said that some of the workers have not been able to come to work due to infection.
Under normal circumstances, industries in Nepal produce about 60 percent of the total annual demand for rice, 62 percent for pulses and 35 percent for oil.
The threat of infection is rising on one hand and on the other, industries are dealing with shortage of raw materials due to the high cost. The price of raw material has gone up in the international market. According to the industrialists, they have not been able to bring the required raw materials as they are not able to trade in cash due to the pandemic.
The price of mustard oil has gone up to $820 per ton from $580 in the international market. Similarly, the price of Sona Mansuli rice has also increased by Rs 250 per quintal to Rs 3,000 per quintal.