Nepalis are consuming imported snacks, sweet foods and breads in increasing quantities matching their rising disposable income. The swelling import bill for titbits from foreign lands shows that Nepalis have developed discerning tastes, and are ready to splurge on their favourite goodies.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), Nepal imported diverse snacks ranging from dalmoth, confectioneries, sauces and potato chips to pizza, biscuits, pasta, chocolate and chewing gum worth more than Rs 4 billion in fiscal 2010-11.
Experts have attributed the surge in imports to the changing food habits of urban Nepalis and low supply of domestic products. Increased tourist movement since the last two years and growing fast food chains and restaurants have also been cited for the rise in food imports.
According to Bharat Joshi, director of sales and marketing of the Hotel Yak and Yeti, an increase in hotel occupancy has led to growing consumption of imported foods. Almost all the hotels in the major tourist hubs saw a significant growth in occupancy in 2011.
“Consumption of imported foods at the Yak and Yeti rose 15 percent last year, and this year the hotel has increased orders by 15 percent to meet the rising demand,” Joshi said.
A number of hotels import spices, cheese, fish, dried foods and canned foods directly while foods like chocolates, biscuits and soft drinks are purchased from local suppliers, hoteliers said.
Mahesh Shrestha of Rabin Raj Traders, which supplies beverages, desserts, breads, soups and baked goods to hotels, said demand for imported foods had been rising annually. According to Shrestha, Nepal imports more than 50 varieties of canned foods. Soft drinks are the largest import. According to the MoAC, Nepal imported soft drinks worth Rs 1.50 billion last year.
Similarly, Nepal imported sweet biscuits worth Rs 503 million, confectionery worth Rs 447 million, potato chips worth Rs 336 million, dalmoth, papad and salted bhujiya worth Rs 311 million, chewing gum worth Rs 262 million and sauces worth Rs 174 million in fiscal 2010-11.
India and the US are the largest suppliers of dalmoth, papad and salted bhujiya to Nepal. Likewise, Singapore, India, Thailand and Saudi Arabia are the largest suppliers of sauces. According to the MoAC, imports of potato chips soared 45 percent and imports of biscuits increased 17 percent year on year. India and the US are the major exporters of potato chips to Nepal.
The import of chocolates and pasta jumped 150 percent and 70 percent respectively in the last fiscal year. China, Malaysia, Singapore, India and the Netherlands are the major chocolate and cocoa exporting countries to Nepal. Meanwhile, pizza imports plunged 80 percent. Hoteliers said the drop in imports was due to pizzas being prepared locally nowadays.
Trade expert Ratnakar Adhikari of South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment said growing consumerism due to increased remittance inflow resulted in rising demand for imported snacks and beverages.
“Growing sophistication among consumers combined with an expansion of integrated supply chains such as departmental stores, restaurants and fast food outlets in urban areas has led to greater demand for these products,” he added.
Agro expert Tulshi Gautam, formerly associated with the Kalimati wholesale market, said that expenditure on imported foods, fruits, beverages and confections had increased as a result of rising income. “Moreover, domestic production is unable to fulfil the requirement of sophisticated urban dwellers; as a result, imports have jumped significantly,” he added. (Source: ekantipur)
IMPORTED FAST FOOD AND SNACKS
|Commodities||2010-11 (in Rs)|
|Soft drinks||1.50 billion|
|Sweet biscuits||503 million|
|Potato chips||336 million|
|Dalmoth, papad,bhujiya||311 million|
|Chewing gum||262 million|
|Pachak, rochak||48.7 million|
|Prepared foods||47.6 million|
|Rusks, toasted bread||45.8 million|
|Tomato ketchup and sauces||38.9 million|