9-15 September 2016 #825

Ginger politics

Sudeep Shrestha in Setopati, 5 September

Subhas Rai

Citing the ‘maximum use of pesticides’ India has banned ginger export from Nepal just a week before Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is scheduled to visit New Delhi. This can’t be a coincidence because India has repeatedly created trouble in bilateral trade in the past whenever a high-level visit is planned from Nepal to India.

A large amount of ginger is rotting in godowns and farmers in Illam, Panchthar, Taplejung including others in the eastern region are facing a financial crisis. Nepal is the third largest producer of ginger in the world after China and India. All ginger produced in Nepal are exported to India after meeting the domestic demand. 20.83 million kgs of ginger was exported into the Indian market in the last fiscal year.

Nepal’s ginger is considered to be of higher quality and Indian agriculture experts have continuously lauded it. But what could be the reason behind the ban in ginger export few days prior to Prime Minsiter Dahal’s visit to India?

India has been creating obstacles on the export of Nepali products whenever the volume shows an increase, and always before a high-level visit, possibly as a bargaining chip.

When Nepali Pashmina exports boomed in the Western and Indian markets in the 1990s, India increased 16 per cent additional charges just two weeks before the Nepal-India inter-governmental committee meeting was scheduled. The meeting is considered important to resolve bilateral economic disputes between the two countries even today. Nepal was planning to raise problems related to pharmaceutical exports at that time.

Petroleum is another product on which India has leverage. India imposed hefty taxes and went against the petroleum import agreement when former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was scheduled to visit India in 2004.

The review of the 1953 Extradition Treaty, Upper Karnali, and Budi Gandhi and Raxaul-Amalekhgunj pipeline agreements were conditions put forward by India while Nepal was planning to raise the issue of transit access to Bangladesh.

Dahal is leaving for India in a week and easy ginger export will be his top priority now, not the other issues that Nepal was planning to raise.

The government’s silence on pesticide contamination has legitimised the Indian ban.

There is nothing new in the ginger ban, India is doing what it has always done: mix trade with politics.

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