In the Fiscal Year 2008/09, the import of prepared food items in Nepal was around Rs. 4.5 billion which jumped to Rs. 20.21 billion in FY 2020/21. The average annual growth rate of about 15% during this period reflects the level of demand for these commodities in Nepal. The most imported prepared foods in Nepal include extracts for soft drink, baby food, biscuits, extracts of coffee and tea, food supplements, sauces, flakes, dalmoth, papad bhujia, bakery dishes, preserved nuts, kurmure, waffles and wafers, preserved fruits, soups, noodles, panmasala, toasted products, ice cream, yeast and bakery powder, fruit juice, papad, potato chips, protein essence, preserved vegetables, jam jelly and preserved nuts.
As Nepali society is integrating with modern consumption culture, prepared food in Nepal is also becoming a part of such behaviour. People assume themselves as they belong to the privileged class when they take prepared food wrapped in attractive and glittering packages.
Due to the remittances induced prosperity, consumption of prepared food items is also becoming ubiquitous across the country irrespective of class, region, geography and social clusters. Increase in consumption of prepared foods is also attributed to urbanisation, hectic lifestyle and convenience to consume it.
One of the reasons for increasing consumption of prepared food at an exponential rate, which has triggered the import, is reluctance of consumers to consume traditionally prepared foods of Nepal
Various questions have been raised in this regard as the import of such items is increasing at an alarming rate. But there are some issues which are hindering Nepal's effort to be self reliance on prepared food.
The main challenge is to produce prepared food items which suit the taste of Nepali consumers who are accustomed of the taste of imported prepared food items. Likewise, inviting the capital and introducing cutting edge technology required for the industry, upgrading the labeling, packaging and branding of such products as per the set international standards, and supply of skilled manpower are also the challenges that should be addressed with proper policy and pragmatic programs.
Making Nepali products competitive with imported products also remains a major challenge that should be looked into properly.
In keeping view of these facts and figures, it is imperative to conduct special campaign to make Nepal self-reliant in prepared food items.
To achieve this goal, it is necessary to pay special attention to the up gradation (production capacity and technology) of Nepali food processing industries. Sufficient budget should be allocated to subsidise the prepared food industry so as to be competitive with imported goods.
To sum up, the industry having such a big market should not be overlooked. The facts and figures present here speak for themselves. As the international market for prepared food is also growing significantly, there is a huge potential to export such Nepali products abroad as well.