Nepal on path to record paddy harvest, says DoATimely and an above-average monsoon have put Nepal on a path to a record paddy harvest that is expected to boost the economy and farm incomes besides helping the country regain food surplus status.
Timely and an above-average monsoon have put Nepal on a path to a record paddy harvest that is expected to boost the economy and farm incomes besides helping the country regain food surplus status.
According to the preliminary statistics of the Department of Agriculture (DoA), the summer paddy output has been projected to jump 15.70 percent to 5.54 million tonnes this year, the highest since 2011 when farmers grew 5.07 million tonnes of the staple grain.
The department’s figure is slightly higher than the estimate of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The FAO in its assessment of Nepal’s agriculture sector had forecast that the 2016 summer paddy output would recover to 4.8 million tonnes, up 13 percent from the 2015 level. Nepal’s paddy output fell sharply by 10.22 percent to 4.29 million tonnes last year.
The good news comes after two back-to-back failed monsoons that shrunk the paddy acreage to 1.35 million hectares last year. Paddy is cultivated on 1.5 million hectares of arable land in Nepal. As Nepal’s agriculture system is predominantly rain-fed, paddy fields are allowed to lie fallow when the heavens don’t open up. Round-the-year irrigation coverage amounts to only 18 percent.
According to the department’s statistics, farmers planted paddy on 1.51 million hectares this year, up 11 percent from before. This is the highest paddy acreage since 2011-12.
Average productivity has increased to 3.66 tonnes per hectare from 3.15 tonnes last year. Region-wise, paddy output in the Eastern, Central and Western regions is expected to amount to 1.62 million tonnes, 1.46 million tonnes and 1.15 million tonnes respectively. Likewise, production in the Mid-Western and Far Western regions has been estimated to reach 616,861 tonnes and 686,476 tonnes respectively.
Senior agro expert Bhola Man Singh Basnet said that a 10 percent increase in paddy production would boost the country’s GDP growth by 1 percent. The agricultural sector contributes about one-third of the real GDP, of which paddy accounts for 7-8 percent.
“The projected bumper paddy harvest will be a shot in the arm for Nepal’s economy that received a beating from the deadly April 25 earthquake and subsequent trade embargo last year. But there are some risks associated with a bumper harvest as a surplus will push down prices which could dampen the hopes of farmers expecting higher incomes,” he said.
“Although the government has set the minimum support price of paddy for this year, it will not help farmers as the announcement came too late,” he said.
Yubak Dhoj GC, director general of the Department of Agriculture, said that the country was on line for a record paddy harvest this year as timely and regular
monsoon rains encouraged farmers to transplant paddy on all lands available.
“Besides, timely budget allocation and distribution allowed agriculture offices across the country to supply inputs like seeds and fertilizers to farmers in adequate quantities,” he said. The bumper harvest will narrow down rice imports to some extent and help the country regain its food surplus status, he said.
According to GC, even if the country has an ‘excess surplus’ of rice, imports will not drop significantly as imported rice is of the ‘fine aromatic’ variety which is not grown much in Nepal.
“Due to burgeoning incomes and a swelling middle-class population in Nepal, demand for fine aromatic rice has been growing notably for the last few years. “We need to encourage farmers to produce high quality rice to offset ballooning imports.”
Nepal imported rice and paddy worth Rs21.86 billion in the last fiscal year, down 11.7 percent from the previous year.
Although import bills have dropped by double digits, they are still huge despite the trade embargo that lasted for five months had paralyzed Nepal’s entire trade and transit system in the last fiscal year.