Traders urge export promotion to cut trade deficit with IndiaNepal has a Rs855 billion trade deficit with the southern neighbour which is its largest trading partner.
Nepali traders participating in the International Trade Fair in New Delhi said that the Rs855 billion trade deficit with India could be slashed by effectively promoting domestic products and services in the Indian market.
Almost 65 percent of Nepal's foreign trade is conducted with the southern neighbour.
Pointing out the need for sufficient recognition and branding of Nepali products, the traders said that recognition was a bigger problem than quality. For this reason, creating brand logos and other promotional efforts is necessary as the attraction for Nepali products is increasing, they said.
Sita Kushwaha has a stall at the fair displaying pashmina products. "There is a lot of interest in Nepali products, but potential buyers are sceptical that they are actually made in Nepal," she said. “They suspect that the goods are imported from China or elsewhere. Many doubt that they are Nepal-made products,” she added.
Pashmina, necklaces and agricultural products from the Himalayan region are the fastest selling items at the fair. "It is difficult to ship Nepali products to the Indian market due to quarantine requirements," she said. According to her, there is good demand for rice produced in the hilly and Himalayan regions besides pickles.
A few years ago when the trade fair was organised in Dehradun, Nepali participants were not able to take rice to the event due to quarantine issues.
"Nepali khukuris are also in great demand in India, but there is little promotion," said participants. Another participant Som Prasad Mudwari said many Nepali products facing import restrictions could be produced in India using Nepali workers and generate jobs.
Mudwari suggested using a unique logo to represent Nepali products. “The quality of Nepali rudraksha beads is the best in the world, but lack of promotion has prevented the market from growing rapidly. It is hard for us to make people recognise Nepali products,” he said. "This is only possible with the help of the government," he added.
Exporters of Nepali products encounter difficulties clearing their goods through customs. Mudwari said he had a hard time convincing customs officials to clear the khukuris he had brought for the trade fair. "In such a situation, how can Nepali products gain a market in India?"
Another trader Lajina Shrestha from Lalitpur, who was participating in the trade fair for the first time, said she also had problems at customs. "Nepali products are pricier than similar Indian products. The government should provide grants so that Nepali products can compete in the international market."
Shrestha said Nepali goods could be promoted along with Visit Nepal 2020 in foreign countries.
"Nepal should conduct a Make in Nepal promotional campaign like India's Make in India campaign," said Suyesh Khanal, director of the Trade Promotion Centre.
The International Trade Fair being held at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi opened on November 14 and will last till November 27. Singing bowls, dhaka textiles, handicrafts and rudraksha beads are some of the products Nepali traders have displayed at the fair.