Growing Fertilizer Market in Nepal

Landlocked Nepal faces the challenge of low crop productivity due to climate change, depletion of soil fertility, and low fertilizer use. Over the years, there has been a significant shift in the use of inorganic fertilizer in the Terai agro-ecological belt, while use has stagnated in the hill and mountain regions. The low fertilizer use may be partly due to insufficient demand, the shortage of fertilizer-responsive varieties that suit Nepali production environments, limited access to irrigation facilities, or limited market access aggravated by rugged terrain in many parts of the country.

The government is concerned about high prices and the dubious quality of fertilizers sold in the country. It is unclear why the demand for and sale of chemical fertilizer supplied through private, informal channels remain high despite the poor quality of chemical fertilizers.

Divya Pandey/IFPRI

To support the government of Nepal, USAID Nepal, through IFPRI, carried out a study to identify what determines the quantity of chemical fertilizer farmers’ use. The project also studied how variation in chemical fertilizer prices across regions between 2003 and 2010 contributed to variation in chemical fertilizer use and other economic outcomes of farm households during the same period.

Key Findings and Policy Recommendations

Analysis of past policies and panel data from the Nepal Living Standard Survey for 2003 and 2010 show that in Nepal's Terai region, lowering the price of chemical fertilizer is more advantageous for larger farms than smallholder farms. The growth in fertilizer demand has been met by private markets, despite the knowledge that chemical fertilizer from private markets is often inferior and impure compared with the chemical fertilizer supplied by the government, nongovernmental organizations, and cooperatives.

The study outlines the following policy options:

  • increasing the use of chemical fertilizer in Nepal, particularly in the hill and mountain regions, which may require the government to focus on raising returns from the use of chemical fertilizer rather than on reducing the price of chemical fertilizer through subsidies
  • conducting further research on the variation in use of chemical fertilizer between medium- to large-size farms in Terai and those in the hill region, as well as on the interactions between chemical and organic fertilizer and the long-term environmental sustainability of increased chemical fertilizer use
  • enhancing investment in agricultural research and development on production technologies

Read more: Determinants of Chemical Fertilizer Use in Nepal

Farm Size and Effects of Chemical Fertilizer Price on Farm Households

Agricultural Mechanization in Nepal

Agricultural mechanization is one of the key processes that will affect the future of smallholder farming systems in Asian countries, including Nepal, where just 8 percent of farmers use tractors, 26 percent use iron plows, and more than 60 percent of intercultural operations are managed by women. Poor infrastructure is a major constraint on the mechanization of agriculture in Nepal. But providing easy credit and raising awareness of financial intermediaries can help to mitigate those constraints and facilitate mechanization.

Divya Pandey/IFPRI

USAID Nepal, through IFPRI, aims to support the Government of Nepal in improving the policy and regulatory environment by reforming the country’s business regulations and supporting the enactment of farmer- and business-friendly input policies and procedures under the Policy Reform Initiative Project (PRIP). As part of this effort, IFPRI conducted several empirical assessments of the issues affecting the promotion of agricultural mechanization (or agri-mechanization) in Nepal.

One assessment addressed the problems and challenges faced by stakeholders—farmers, agrimachinery providers, producers and fabricators, researchers, and traders—and assessed how the adoption of custom-hired services affects farm households across farms of all size. The main objective of this empirical assessment was to identify policy solutions for the strategic implementation of the agri-mechanization promotion policy passed in 2014.


To understand the policy questions in depth, the team conducted a literature review, collected primary and secondary data for analysis of mechanization in Nepal, interacted frequently with a variety of stakeholders, and reviewed the policy environment.

Key Findings and Policy Recommendations

The study on agri-mechanization in Nepal found that smallholder farmers are likely to benefit from the adoption of tractors through custom-hiring services. But they may also have incentives to exit farming and specialize in nonfarm income-earning activities. IFPRI researchers found that operators providing machine services lacked training, which contributed to poor demonstrations and low adoption of machine use among farmers. Because the government had not made mechanization a priority in the past, the sector is currently in a developmental state, and mechanization is not widely recognized as a substantial tool for better crop productivity.

IFPRI researchers also analyzed the policies and provisions governing the agri-mechanization sector, and recommended strengthening Nepal’s agri-mechanization promotion policy and focusing on implementation. Issues surrounding taxation (that is, the custom tariff and VAT) also need to be resolved. Finally, the establishment of networks and coordination with other sectoral and cross-sectoral policies and an agricultural mechanization credit policy are needed.

Read more: Effects of Agricultural Mechanization on Smallholders and Their Self-Selection into Farming: An Insight from the Nepal Terai

Expanding the Scope of Contract Farming in Nepal

 Konark Sikka is an intern with IFPRI- South Asia office

Participants at the workshop in Nepal
Participants at the workshop in Nepal

Agriculture being major source of livelihood and employment in Nepal, and is effected by low productivity, traditional farming practice and lack of connectivity with markets. Fragmented landholding with limited access to market and knowledge to sell its produce results in slow progress. Promotion of contract farming would lead to improved access to technology, markets and credit, reducing transaction costs and increasing efficiency in production and marketing. This would enable small scale enterprises to mitigate risks while creating a climate for entrepreneurship.  Contract farming in fact has the potential to reduce poverty by raising farmers’ incomes.

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agricultural Development, Government of Nepal, and Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS), and Federation of the Nepal Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), organized a two day workshop on ‘Best Practices in Contract Farming: Challenges and Opportunities in Nepal’ on 10-11 February 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The workshop uncovered that scaling up contract farming was necessary but it would pose challenges which would need to be overcome through collective action to ensure smallholders’ participation. This might even require intervention from the government, relevant NGOs and lead firms in value chains, thus posing a need for solid communication and cooperation between the three sectors. Mutual trust would be needed for fortifying any relation between contractors and contracted farmers. With that in mind, risk sharing between the two would facilitate the fortification of this relationship. Integrating research institutions into the process would be fruitful as well, as it would help in a faster and smooth spread of technologies.

Sharing country experience at the workshop – Few of the policy way forward that were discussed are-

1. There is a need to be a convergences of policies, institutions, technologies and infrastructure

2. Policies and an impermeable legal framework pertaining to contract farming is needed to be developed and there should be reduction in policy lag, between announcements and actual implementation

3. Leveling the playing field for private sector participation in the form of regulations, taxes and solid incentives for the agri-business industry is needed

4. Involving smallholders into growers associations and providing them with credit and insurance would be step forward

5. Improving public infrastructure along with a proper technology transfer mechanism as solutions needs to be initiated

This workshop is part of the on-going project Policy Research and Strategy Support for Agricultural Development and Food Security in Nepal

Link to presentations

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