January 22: The production of Sugarcane, which is the main cash crop of Nepal, is decreasing in recent times. Government data shows that sugarcane production decreased by more than 305,000 metric tons in the last three years. Stakeholders say that production is decreasing due to increasing cost of production, risky market, low competitiveness and problems in getting the amount of sugarcane sold on credit.
According to the data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, sugarcane cultivation was done on 71,625 hectares of land in the fiscal year (FY) 2075/76 yielding production of 3,557,934 tons of sugarcane. But by FY 2077/78, the cultivation area reduced by 7,271 hectares to 64,354 hectares, and the production reduced by 373,991 tons to 318,3943 tons. Meanwhile, the productivity of sugarcane decreased to 49.47 tons which was 49.6 tons in FY 2075/76.
According to the ministry, although there is a lot of potential to get quality products with high productivity by expanding sugarcane cultivation commercially in the country, the production is decreasing due to internal problems.
Prakash Kumar Sanjel, spokesperson of the ministry, said that the cost-price ratio decreased due to the low productivity of sugarcane in Nepal compared to other countries. Farmers also lack quality sugarcane varieties. Due to this, both productivity and production are decreasing.
In recent times sugarcane market is also at risk, adding problems to the production. According to a statement released by the ministry, 13 large industries are currently purchasing sugarcane from the farmers in Nepal in big scale. There are many farmers who produce sugarcane on a small scale. Therefore, there are many sugarcane producers and limited number of buyers in Nepal. The government's role in market regulation is secondary. In such a situation, there is a high possibility that the limited number of buyers can exploit the small farmers.
Due to this kind of effect, sugarcane farmers had to come to Kathmandu many times and stage street protests to get payment for the sugarcane they sold on credit to the industrialists. Even though the government has introduced programs such as fixing the minimum support price for sugarcane, promoting irrigation for sugarcane and promoting the development of seeds of superior quality in the country, the sugarcane farmers have started turning to other crops because of the failure in effective implementation of those initiatives.
The sugar produced in Nepal is not able to compete with the price of imported sugar in terms of production cost. According to a report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2018, Nepal's neighboring countries including India and Pakistan provide high subsidies for sugar and sugarcane production, which has affected Nepal's sugar production.