My Republica, May 29, 2019
Agri ministry official says 'human error'
KATHMANDU: The government has projected high economic growth rate for the current fiscal year driven mainly by agricultural productions. However, statistics of livestock production released by the Ministry of Finance has been found questionable.
The Economic Survey of Fiscal Year 2017/18 projected growth in range of 0.7 percent to 2.9 percent for different farm animals and birds. However, the Economic Survey for FY2018/19 unveiled by the Ministry of Finance shows negative growth of -2.11 percent to -41.38 percent in FY2017/18. Surprisingly, there is growth in production of only few farm animals.
According to the Economic Survey for FY2018/19, milk production in 2017/18 plummeted by 23.44 percent to 1.39 million tons while production of duck eggs saw a sharp fall of 41.38 percent to 8.065 million units. Similarly, number of water buffalos is down by 28.54 percent to 834,000 heads.
Livestock experts say the statistics released by the government is questionable as milk production and cow population has not declined in recent history. “We have seen a steady growth in milk production. Such a huge negative growth is unexpected and hence is questionable," Nanda Prasad Shrestha, a former executive director of Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC). “Every year, we have been adding about 100,000 heads of improved breed of cows. Milk production is definitely on the rise," he said, adding: "Negative growth in milk production is unimaginable."
The impact of this 'manipulated data' is sure to lower revisions of economic growth rate projection in this fiscal year. The projected growth rate is 6.81 percent.
Some term the manipulation of data as a premeditated move of the government to show high growth on low base.
The country has seen a healthy growth in livestock production in recent years. The growth rate over the past few years averages 6-7 percent. Experts say such a massive variation in livestock production has not been recorded in recent history.
Large numbers of cattle were killed in the 2015 earthquakes. Despite this, milk production recorded only a marginal drop in FY2015/16
Livestock experts have confirmed that they had not seen such a huge variation of growth rates, while government officials termed it as a 'human error'. Ram Krishna Regmi, a senior statistics officer at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, acknowledged the mistake terming it as 'human error'. "Regardless of what the data says, there is growth in livestock production," he added.
Suman Aryal, director general of Central Bureau of Statistics, said that they were fully dependent on data provided by the Ministry of Agricultural and Livestock Development. Aryal acknowledged that economic growth rate can vary if there is any change in agriculture statistics. "But it will not be much significant as livestock contributes very little to overall growth," he added.