Expert Speak: AgriMove Pvt. Ltd.

Mr. Prajwal Kattel
Cheif Operating Officer, AgriMove Pvt. Ltd.

Road to recovery

As one of the
major sectors in Nepal, agriculture falls under the government’s priority list.
However, the sector hasn’t received the required attention, due to which it
hasn’t been able to make departures from its traditional ways. There is a dire
need of innovation, especially with regards to the supply chain, in the sector
to re-invent it. Furthermore, the lockdown brought about several challenges
which again highlighted the need to rebuild traditional supply chain
mechanisms. To under how the agriculture sector coped during the pandemic, and
how supply chain dynamics changed, NEF spoke to Prajwal Kattel, Chief Operating
Officer of AgriMove Pvt. Ltd. And prepared a brief excerpt as below.

Impacts of the COVID-19
pandemic and the subsequent lockdown on AgriMove’s business operations:

19 pandemic largely impacted the business operations of AgriMove, especially
during the first week of the lockdown as the business did not operate during
that week at all. Once the government started providingpasses; the business resumed
in a relatively small scale and location. In the beginning, it was challenging
to cope with the health and safety issue of the staffs, mobility, the response
that they would receive from their family, the landlord, and the society. With
almost daily changes and updates in government regulations, the business had to
re-adjust operations promptly and logically. Sometimes, strategies prepared in
the previous night would not work the next day.It was evident that no new
strategy would work as ‘the’ strategy in this situation.The company had to adapt
with new working hours, work division and order processing. However, as the team
got familiar with this change, it managed to regain the business.

Innovative business
and supply chain modalities that were adopted by AgriMove (if any) in order to
cope with the current crisis:

Most of the
things that were being done earlier had to be done in new ways, adaptingto limited
resources and strict government guidelines. Since packaging takes a significant
amount of time in AgriMove’s supply chain cycle, the business had to innovate
in this section. Order patterns received during the few days of lockdown had to
be studied,and new arrangementshad to be made to reduce daily packaging hours.
On the other hand, it was impossible to do 100% procurement directly from the
farms. Therefore, it was decided to gain a balance through dry vegetable items,
fruits and utilize short distant farms. Also this ratio was changed with
respect to AgriMove’s fulfillment center. In other way-round, a shorter
farm-to-fork supply chain was basically the game changer. Therefore, not only was
AgriMove able to do better regular business, but it also reduced the post-harvest
losses that used to happen in the past.

In many
instances, agriculturalproductscould not reach
the market platform due to the lockdown resulting in losses for
farmers/producers, and there was a high rise
in prices of agricultural produce.

Measures that could
be taken in future to avoid such situations:

Even before
the lockdown, it was an unpleasant reality that not much Nepali fresh produce used
to reach the market, which was made worse by the lockdown. This is a national
issue, and the government should come up with necessary feasible plans to
address this. Moreover, aplan to introduce and strengthen digital platforms and
structures could be a good way forward. However, looking at the current
practices in other sectors, it is doubtful that the government is ready for
this. Few plans from the government side such as- subsidy for transportation,
minimum dynamic rates for every produce, purchase guarantee for smallholder
farmers makes more sense and will create positive impact in a short time.

Impact of
unavailability of seeds, fertilizers and human resources on agricultural yield
(in terms of production and in the near future), and its influence on the
recovery process of the agriculture sector:

By their
long experience, Nepali farmers and producers know that unavailability of seeds
and fertilizers significantly reduces production. There are multiple prospects
to increase production through timely availability of improved seeds and
fertilizers, as well as through soil fertility management practices. Adopting a
strategy of district based seed banks would help to address this problem in a
systematic manner. A large fraction of the production gap is also resulting
from the lack of knowledge, inadequate access to affordable technologies, and
unavailability of extension services due to weak public and private sector
capacity to provide support needed for small scale farmers. To address this
issue, even a simple initiative like producing and disseminating reliable hand
books about ‘the geography and climate suitable crops’ to farmers and producers
can be highly effective. We are quite poor in terms of understanding and
analyzing the total and real cost of agricultural production and generating
necessary data. A thorough study of crop based ‘cost of production’ is urgent
to make a realistic plan for the future. As an optimist active in this
business, I believe that modern technology has to be used as soon and widely as
possible in agriculture throughout the farm-to-fork chain. In addition, alarge number
of Nepalis youth alsohave to be trained to use these technologies effectively.

Type of policy
reforms (particularly from the government) that are required to stabilize
supply chains in the agriculture sector in order to ensure demand and supply equilibrium,
and food security post the pandemic:

government should make policies that combine the actors in the supply chain.
That includes producers, processors and distributors to stabilize supply of
fresh produce and to improve the functioning of the chain. Collaboration amongst
various stakeholders along the value chain is very important. The
interdependence between stakeholders in the chain and their wider network all
should be involved in such collaboration. Improved supply chain helps to
collect more produce and reduces harvest loss. Our domestic demand and supply
equilibrium of the produce is very much out of balance because of the import
mainly from India. This is discouraging for local producers. On the other hand,
produce imported from India is cheaper compared to
domestic production. Therefore, our government should support farmers in
reducing their cost of production. Also it is important to encourage our
farmers to harvest products that are imported to help us meet demand and supply

security starts from seed selection and ends at the dining table. Basically, it
comprises of four dimensions: availability, access, utilization, and stability.
When all four of these dimensions are fulfilled simultaneously at an
individual, household, community or national level then only food security will
be achieved. Along with this, climate resilience has also become critical in
food security thinking.Therefore, the government should plan and coordinate
policies that are suitable to our food ecosystem.

“Supply chain in agriculture sector has been highly
disrupted which could take a while to recover despite government easing

Supply side
measures and recovery plans that could be adopted to ensure smooth and prompt
revival of the agricultural sector of the nation:

Nepal’s current
supply practice of fresh produce is still quite traditional. The practice of
supply chain is unaccountable. The coordinated and systematic supply along the
chain is a very important footstep to equalize this problem. The small scale
farmers are not getting the fair price they deserve for their total produce
because of various reasons including poor transportation system.

The government can and should take some important initiatives like building as many collection centers as possible at local levels, shortening the distance between farms and markets by creating new authorized markets, subsidizing the fresh produce transport agents, and encouragingas well as facilitatingthe private sector.

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