Getting food to market in Nepal

Shova Baral sells a trader a basket of lettuce she has carried from her farm to the Pokhara wholesale market (FAO/G.Diana)

Produce that arrives at Pokhara market in the night is efficiently processed and sold to city retailers (FAO/G.Diana)

"Now this is a good system," says Shova Baral. She is beaming as she accepts payment from a wholesaler for a conical doko basket full of lettuce she has carried from her farm three kilometres away. The new wholesale market at Pokhara, mid-western Nepal, has seen a stream of buyers and sellers arriving by truck, night bus, taxi, rickshaw and on foot since 4 a.m.

"I used to come into the city and sell in the street direct to the customer, which took me a lot of time," says Ms Baral, 32. "Here I get a good price for a basket of vegetables but I can head straight back home and get to work." As she prepares to leave, the sun hits the Himalayan peaks in the distance.

The business-like atmosphere in the wholesale market, an enclosure the size of a football field with 105 covered cement stalls around its perimeter, contrasts sharply with the chaotic scene 50 metres away at the city bus depot, where fruit and vegetables used to be unloaded.

But a market is more than concrete and asphalt. An efficient marketing system also needs to provide collection points in rural areas where farmers can bring their produce and be paid a fair posted price by traders who arrive in trucks, happy to be assured of a good supply. The system also needs to ensure enough competition among traders to guarantee fair prices for consumers.

Between 1995 and 2000, FAO helped organize market management committees, provide training in management and vegetable handling and set up a market information service as part of a larger US$3.6 milion effort to construct 19 small-scale market facilities for fruits and vegetables. The project supported the development of small collection centres, as well as the Pokhara market. Funding was provided by the UN Capital Development Fund and the Government of Nepal.

It is not only sellers who are pleased with the Pokhara Market. Suresh Gupta, 22, has come from Lucknow, India, to try his hand as a wholesaler of bananas, groundnuts and oranges. He has a cell phone and a calculator on his tidy desk and a colourful Hindu religious poster on the wall behind him.

"The new market is great," he says, barely looking up from an invoice he is writing. "I can check the prices in Kathmandu and Narayangadh so I know what I should pay and what I should charge. The stalls are very big. There's lots of parking, no crowds and the people are very cooperative."

A trader filling the back seat of a taxi with oranges that he will provide to retailers is equally enthusiastic. "The market is very good for me because I don't have to waste time looking for sellers in the street," says Prem Poudel, 32. "My business is coming along. I'm making more money."

Bhoj Raj Khanal, the Pokhara Market manager trained by FAO, is proud of his domain. "Every day we have 1 000 buyers and sellers using the market. They pay only five rupees to enter -- the price of a cup of tea -- which maintains the market," he says.

"We don't set market prices, but every morning we canvass five buyers and sellers in each commodity and post average prices. We fax or e-mail prices between wholesale markets and broadcast them on the radio so that sellers can go where the price is right for them."

26 March 2001

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©FAO, 2001