Food for thoughtIt is alarming that Nepal has slid back to a food deficit country despite record harvest
Nepal slid back into a food deficit country despite a record harvest this fiscal year, after recording a surplus of nearly 1 million tonnes in the last fiscal year, ending mid-July. According to the Economic Survey 2017-18 unveiled on Sunday, the country has a food deficit of 71,400 tonnes this fiscal year. In the last fiscal year, Nepal had a food surplus of 898,115 tonnes. The survey shows that Province 3 has the highest food deficit of 535,000 tonnes, followed by Province 2 with 111,800 tonnes and Karnali Province with 16,800 tonnes. Province 1 has the highest food surplus of 320,100 tonnes followed by Province 5 (166,700 tonnes), Province 4 (97,600 tonnes) and Province 7 (7,700 tonnes).
Nearly 66 percent of population is engaged in agriculture sector and its contribution to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) is 27.6 percent. It’s a largest sector that provides employment to a large number of people. Agricultural production keeps on fluctuating because of weather stress like drought, low rainfall, hailstorm and floods. As Nepal’s agriculture is rain-fed, the worrying factor is inadequate irrigation facilities in the Tarai, which is the major foodgrains basket. Agriculture is directly linked with the country’s economic growth. When the monsoon is normal, production of crops, particularly paddy, increases and the country’s economy shows a healthy growth.
The ballooning agricultural imports is worrying. According to the Department of Customs, Nepal imported farm products worth Rs196 billion in the last fiscal year, up 11.36 percent year-on-year, setting off concern that the country’s dependency on imported food was ballooning out of control. The share of agro products in the total import bill has swelled to 20 percent of the country’s total import bill of Rs984.06 billion in the last fiscal year.
The country is in trouble. Imports are unlikely to drop soon. And it could make things far worse if the ongoing trend continues: fertile farmlands in the Tarai region are being rapidly buried under concrete, and the effects of the land plotting are becoming visible in food production. Furthermore, anticipated damage to fertile agricultural land and production means that food prices are likely to stay high. This needs an urgent intervention. Now time has come to worry about where the next meal is coming.
Growing enough food for future generations will be a challenge without adopting climate-smart technology. Over the long term, as Nepal cannot increase the agricultural land, agricultural productivity must increase by making heavy investment particularly in climate-smart agriculture and farm mechanisation system. In past years, unstable government policies had helped create the problem. Now the stable government should help resolve it long-term.