Nepal: Poorly equipped chemical testing labs delay imports of fruit and veg

The Nepalese government has made it mandatory for imported fresh vegetables and fruits to undergo chemical testing before getting customs clearance. However, most of the customs points bordering India do not have a dedicated chemical testing lab, forcing traders to send the imported produce off to faraway laboratories, which are not properly equipped themselves.

This to and fro from the customs point to the lab has raised import costs and consumers are paying higher prices in the market, said traders.

The government enacted a new Pesticides Act last year, asking importers to receive chemical free certification in order to import the farm products. “The regulation has barred the import of vegetables and fruits without undergoing testing of chemical residues,” said Binod Bhattarai, senior agriculture officer and information officer of Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.

According to the agriculture ministry, around 15 customs points including several small customs offices have quarantine laboratories. However, many of them do not have proper equipment to test the chemicals present in the farm items. “While the labs can test for chemicals on the surface of the farm produce, they are not able to ascertain if the edibles might contain chemicals inside,” said Bhattarai. says that apart from the quarantine check posts, the ministry has been operating the Rapid Bioassay for Pesticide Residue Laboratory (RBPR) in seven locations—Kalimati, Birtamod, Malangwa, Nepalgunj, Attariya, Butwal and Pokhara. Vegetable and fruit importers need to get their products tested in any of these laboratories before they make it to the market.

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