Sindhupalchok wheat production plungesWheat production in Sindhupalchok district is markedly down in recent years as farmers are increasingly making a switch from harvesting wheat to growing vegetables. Farmers have become disillusioned with wheat cultivation year after year as the demand for wheat continues to fall in local markets combined with the lengthy period of time for the crop to grow and better profits from selling vegetables.
Wheat production in Sindhupalchok district is markedly down in recent years as farmers are increasingly making a switch from harvesting wheat to growing vegetables. Farmers have become disillusioned with wheat cultivation year after year as the demand for wheat continues to fall in local markets combined with the lengthy period of time for the crop to grow and better profits from selling vegetables.
According to statistics of District Agricultural Office (DAO), various local and improved varieties of wheat was planted in 7,020 hectares last fiscal year, while wheat was cultivated in just 4,693 hectares this fiscal year, a 33 percent reduction in wheat acreage in a single year. Last year, 7,862 tonnes of wheat was produced in the district, which receded this year by 40 percent to 4,710 tonnes.
This also indicates falling productivity of Sindhupalchok from 1.12 tonnes per hectare to about 1 tonne per hectare within a single year. DAO informed that wheat production has been falling continuously for the last five years.
A farmer of Balefi Rural Municipality Bhoj Prasad Nepal said, “Farmers are cultivating wheat mostly for domestic consumption and not in a commercial manner. I plant wheat in a small area, and instead cultivate vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage and tomatoes.” Farmers like Nepal complain that the reason they switched to cultivating vegetables is that wheat is not fetching the appropriate market value in local areas despite lots of efforts required in wheat production.
Nepal said, “Farmers in almost all villages in the district are cultivating wheat as a grass for livestocks and just enough for household consumption because efforts at cultivating wheat has come to nothing.”Farmers find harvesting wheat over planting vegetables less lucrative as wheat requires farmers to wait several months to harvest and lacks market access while vegetables don’t require that long and is in demand.
Dil Kumari Karki of Melamchi Municipality said that she quit cultivating wheat as the crop takes several months to reap wheat grains and lacks market demand. “I have switched entirely to vegetable farming,” said Karki, adding, “It is necessary to manage the market for wheat which could fall to zero production at this pace.” Farmers are reported to practice group farming of vegetables and large cardamom.
Agricultural Officer Durga Dutta Panthi said, “Wheat production in the district is continually sliding due to mismanagement of agricultural sector after the earthquake.” He added, “Wheat production in the district could be down due to lack of irrigation in various areas, less access to agricultural devices and services as well as due to lack of market.” Many farmers in the district now grow potatoes, which has also discouraged cultivation of wheat.
According to statistics of the government of Nepal, in the fiscal year of 2015/16, wheat is cultivated on 745,823 hectares area and wheat production nationally is at 1.737 million tonnes. This indicates national wheat productivity at 2.32 tonnes per hectare, more than double Sindhupalchok district productivity, which stands at 1 tonne per hectare.