KATHMANDU, Feb 17: A meeting of top bureaucrats held at the prime minister´s office (PMO) and chaired by Chief Secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire has decided to crack down on "middlemen" at Kalimati Fruits and Vegitable Market to curtail artificial price hikes in fruits and vegetables.
The meeting attended by various government secretaries directed Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) officials to immediately crack down on unscrupulous middlemen at Kalimati vegetable market who are allegedly charging exorbitant prices for vegetables and profiteering.
The meeting asked the MoCS officials to launch a special program within seven days and enlist help from the Home Ministry if necessary to take on brokers responsible for keeping vegetable and fruit prices artificially high.
Government officials say that middlemen at the state-promoted Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market Development Board ( KFVMDB) raise the prices of fruits and vegetables by up to 200 percent after buying the produce from farmers at throwaway prices.
"The government´s weak price monitoring at retail level and the broker cartel which has direct contact with farmers have encouraged excessive hikes and volatility in prices in the market," said Tulsi Prasad Gautam, former executive director of KFVMDB.
According to Gautam, tomatoes for example saw variations in the range of Rs 5 to Rs 45 per kg at retail last month "which is an abnormal phenomenon and points to lack of proper price monitoring by state authorities".
The meeting also directed the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) to formulate a plan for the upcoming fiscal year 2012/13 with a target of generating employment for 50,000 youths through the launch of cooperatives-based pocket sectors in all 75 districts.
Similarly, the meeting decided to direct the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to take initiative in providing special exemptions for the import of materials and equipment for use in modern agriculture such as drip irrigation, green houses, net houses, poly tunnels, packaging equipment and spare parts so as to encourage farmers in commercial farming through cooperatives.
"We have also decided to provide a special subsidy on agricultural inputs for those involved in commercial farming through cooperatives," said the source.