PRABHAKAR GHIMIREKATHMANDU, Nov 1: Acute shortage of fertilizer and prolonged drought during plantation season is going to inflict a loss in production of 563,000 tons of net edible foods this year, says a fresh report of the government.
|“Compared to last year, we anticipate the production of paddy
and maize to fall by 14.2 percent and 10 percent respectively this
year,” said Prabhakar Pathak, spokesperson for the Ministry of
Agriculture Development (MoAD), disclosing the finding of preliminary
projection report on food output for 2012/13.
The report, which is still to be made public, suggests that the total paddy output is expected to drop by 720,000 tons this year compared to 5.07 million tons -- all time high production -- recorded last year.
Likewise, maize production is anticipated to drop by around 164,000 tons due to insufficient rainfall during the farming season.
“This loss in production of paddy by 720,000 tons (or 432,000 tons of milled rice) and maize by 164,000 tons (131,000 tons in edible state) will eventually lead to a loss of 563,000 tons of net edible foods this year,” Pathak told Republica.
Paddy and maize are the key cereals of Nepal. But some 46 percent of total agriculture land is rain-fed. And productions were hit because the country recorded average rainfall of just 61 and 87 millimeter in June and July this year, whereas it was 110 and 96 millimeter respectively last year.
Owing to drought and fertilizer scarcity, the total paddy plantation areas itself shrank, said Pathak.
According to the report, farmers planted paddy in just about 1.38 million hectares, which is a decline by 140,000 hectares compared to a total area in which paddy was planted last year. “Plantation was done in just about 91 percent of the paddy land this year,” it reads.
The paddy plantation area declined mainly as Dhanusha and Siraha -- key paddy producing districts -- reported plantation in just 49 percent and 50 percent of paddy land. Similarly, plantations in Mahottari and Saptari were done in just 60 percent and 65 percent of paddy land respectively.
Last year, the four districts reported almost cent percent plantation. As a result, total production of major cereals -- paddy, maize, wheat, millet and buckwheat combined -- increased by 9.8 percent to 9.45 million tons, enabling the country to enjoy a food surplus of around 886,000 tons in 2011/12.
Contrary to drop in output, the report says demand for cereals could rise by 100,000 tons to 5.3 million tons this year.
“We will not face food scarcity if the winter crops remain normal. But in the context of climate change we can´t rule that out. Even if situation is normal in winter season, at least 27 districts will face food deficit this year,” Pathak added.
REPUBLICAKATHMANDU, Oct 31: At a time when the country is enjoying record food surplus, imports of rice jumped by almost tenfold over the first two months of the current fiscal year compared to the same period last year.
The import data that the central bank released recently shows Nepal imported rice worth Rs 1.14 billon during the first two months of 2012/13, up from Rs 120 million in the same period last year.
India is the largest supplier of rice to Nepal.
The Ministry of Agriculture Development had, a few months ago, announced that the country has recorded food surplus of 880,000 tons in 2011/12. This was expected to lower food imports.
“The latest import data has surprised us,” Narayan Bidari, director general of Department of Commerce and Supply Management (DoCSM), told Republica.
|Officials and traders attributed such disproportionate rise in
imports to recent lifting of ban on export of non-basmati rice by India
after a gap of more than three years.
“Rice import rose mainly because traders are presently feeling comfortable to import rice from official channel from India,” Satish Bohra, deputy general secretary of Association of Nepal Rice, oil and Pulse Industries, said.
During the 2008 food crisis in 2008, India had imposed ban on export of rice in a bid to ease the internal supply of foods.
“The present import surge shows lifting of ban by India prompted traders to switch to official trade," said an official.
Traders like Bohra attributed the rise in imports to increase in prices of rice itself. "The price of rice has increased by around 20 percent this year. It also jacked up the import figure (in monetary terms)," said Bohra.
Some of the traders and officials suspect that the rise in import could be due to recent decision of the government to open rice exports to China. "It is difficult to say for sure. But we cannot rule out its possibility," said the official.
Keeping in view food surplus and growing demand for rice in Tibet, the government in the last fiscal year had allowed traders to export 10,000 tons of rice to China through Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi customs points.
Following the decision, DoCSM in August granted permission to 65 firms to export rice to the northern neighbor on condition that they complete the export process within six months of issuance of export licenses.