The budget as announced on 15th July has been stated, if one is to believe the presentation and discussions in the house, for: 1) getting rid of load-shedding 2) starting up restive industries, 3) making tourism a major sector and 4) disbursing one crore to each of the assembly members to utilize in his or her constituency for the benefit of the people.
Following this announcement the countrymen of Nepal seem to have taken up this encouragement at heart. The very next day, a group of sellers of vegetables brought a truck loaded with tomatoes and dumped these on the road at Kalimati, in front of what may be called our ‘Sabji Mandi’. This has brought to my mind the taking to the streets and scattering farm produce that the farmers of France periodically do against the government, protesting against the European Union rules that results in the French farmers being at a disadvantage.
La Tomatina is a festival held in the Spanish town of Bunol on the last Wednesday in August. It originated suddenly at a fracas between some locals of the town when they threw tomatoes at each other. People enjoyed this and so it was repeated the following year. It is now an annual event and there are rules and regulations that have to be followed. Such became its popularity that there are many towns, both in Europe and America where a similar event is held annually.
It seems that our 12 months, all seasons, tomato farmers had banked on getting a minimum of Rs 25-30 per kilo but were loathe selling at the going price of Rs. 13 per kg. They mentioned too that last year the price had been between Rs. 50-30. This however is no argument for the price of all commodities fluctuates as per the demand and supply. Because of the late monsoons this year the price of rice is expected to go up. In many places there are agricultural monitoring bodies to decide on prices for the season, whilst there are cartels in others. The growers cannot take their vent on the government. Could they not, after a press conference, have given the tomatoes to Balmandir, to an Old Peoples’ Home or even fed pigs to draw attention to their plight? This was simply wastage of good edible matter that cannot be condoned.
What our Nepali agro producers have to do, is to assure us consumers about the safety of their produce. A recent newspaper report stated that 16 vegetables and fruit items supplied in the valley have pesticide residue and are inconsumable. In fact organophosphate and carbamate were detected in excessive amount.
What is a reality or a fact of life is the of course the ‘one way traffic’ of agricultural produce and what not from India into Nepal. There is hardly any traffic the other way. In these days of marketing, the substances from the South appear big and juicy whilst being peddled in a basket on a bicycle, our products usually have to be picked up from the ground where they are generally displayed. Their sizes and shapes vary too.
In countries where there are some rules for marketing, the products are graded prior to being sent to the market to be sold. For example, eggs may be graded as small, medium and large. Those damaged or too small, may be utilized for making shampoos or even egg powder for use in large establishments.
In the case of our local tomatoes from rural areas, they appear smaller than the ones which have been imported or grown in the organic farms in Nepal. New uses could have been found for them. These could have been utilized for making tomato ketchup and thus replace pumpkins that are usually used.
I remember that during the time of gathering the potato crop, the little ones or chiguo aloo were usually kept to one side whilst the big specimens were sorted out and later sent off to be sold. It was the lot of the farmer to enjoy the little specimens of potatoes with his family. Such modalities should be in place with other groceries too.
One dark cloud in our agricultural horizon is the ignorant and indiscriminate use of pesticides and hormone injections in many farming areas of Nepal to protect and increase the size of the vegetables and fruits. We hear of chemical use to ripen fruits or vegetables and to make them attractive and saleable. Is the increase in renal diseases and of kidney failure, the direct result of all this? One has only to think of vultures dying after eating the carcases of cattle given the drug Diclofenac to relieve joint pains. What will be the fate of us Nepalis in years to come as a result of the ignorant and indiscriminate use of pesticides.