Nepal: Cabbage exports to India from eastern districts hit Rs 500 million annually

Nepal's eastern hill districts have been exporting thousands of tonnes of cabbage to India as demand for organic vegetables has witnessed a steep rise. The cabbage harvest season has started in the hills of Sankhuwasabha, Tehrathum and Dhankuta.

The Koshi Corridor is a large producer of green and fresh vegetables as the crops are mostly grown naturally. The value of the cabbage exported to India annually stands at around Rs500 million (€3.6 mln). At this time of the year, the landscape of the eastern hills are covered with cabbage, and agro tourism is also becoming popular in these districts.

According to Laxman Bhattarai, manager of the Agricultural Commodity Market Management Committee, Dharan, cabbage was the most sought-after vegetable crop among Indian buyers.

But all exports are not quite legal; growers have been earning millions of rupees by producing organic vegetables in the hills which is directly benefiting the country, but most of the exports are not made through legal channels.

Cabbage is shipped to the Indian market in two ways, Bhattarai said. According to legal export practice, cabbage is collected from farmers in the Agriculture Commodity Market and shipped by Nepali and Indian traders after paying customs duty. But there are hordes of farmers and traders who are exporting directly to the Indian market.

Bhattarai told that an average of 13,000 tonnes of cabbage is collected annually from farmers in the Koshi Corridor and reaches consumers through wholesalers and retailers. "Out of the 13,000 tonnes, 50 percent is consumed in the local market and the rest is exported to India," he said.

Illegal export of cabbage is very high, said Bhattarai. There are fresh statistics on the volume of cabbage production in the Koshi Corridor. Due to the weather factor and fertile land, farmers in the eastern hill districts do not use much chemical fertiliser and pesticides to grow vegetables in a commercial way.

Because cabbage is mostly produced in an organic way, its demand has been growing in the Indian market. Traders say that the bulk of the cabbage harvest goes to Kolkata, India.

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