Farmers more worried about finding fertiliser and workers than the virusThe paddy transplanting season is underway, and Province 1 has reported better-than-expected progress.
It’s the season for transplanting paddy, and farmer Manik Chandra Rajbansi of Sunbarsi Municipality is more worried about finding enough chemical fertiliser and farm hands than the coronavirus.
Rajbansi has spent 90 days cooped up in his home; he has to grow food on his 4-bigha farm, and he is short of both.
Ram Kumar Mandal, another farmer of Rangeli, has been able to transplant paddy on 10 katthas out of the 8 bighas he owns. “There are no farm workers,” he said.
Most of the farmers in Province 1 in the eastern part of the country are currently facing two serious problems — no chemical fertiliser during the prime transplantation time and no farm workers.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers have returned home after losing their jobs due to Covid-19 in major labour destinations across the world, but farmers say it is still difficult to find help.
Despite virus fears and shortages of plant nutrients and farm hands, Province 1 has reported better-than-expected progress in transplanting paddy, thanks to an active monsoon.
The rains, which usually begin pouring from June 10, were delayed by two days this year, and have remained active across the country with regular downpours.
As of Monday, farmers in Province 1, which consists of 14 districts, had transplanted paddy on 10 percent of the 340,829 hectares of paddy fields, according to the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperative of Province 1. During the same period last year, transplantation had reached 8 percent.
According to the ministry, paddy transplantation has been completed on 7.88 percent of the fields in the Tarai, 17.15 percent in the hills and 7.12 percent in the mountain region.
Bhojpur district achieved the highest rate of transplantation. Jhapa, the country’s top paddy producing district, however, recorded the lowest transplantation rate of 2 percent, according to the ministry. The paddy acreage in Jhapa district is 87,500 hectares.
“As Jhapa has a large number of virus infected people compared to other areas in Province 1, farmers are in a difficult situation to begin work in a full-fledged manner,” said Rajendra Upreti, spokesperson for the ministry.
Jhapa has 211 Covid-19 patients, the highest in Province 1, followed by Morang with 132 and Sunsari with 68.
Paddy has been transplanted on 12 percent of the 83,300 hectares of farm land in Morang. In Sunsari, transplantation has been completed on 6,050 hectares out of the 55,000 hectares available.
According to Upreti, transplantation in Terhathum and Dhankuta has been completed on 28 percent and 25 percent of the fields respectively. Transplantation in Solukhumbu, Taplejung and Sankhuwasabha, the mountain region of Province 1, has been completed on 28 percent, 10 percent and 3 percent of the fields respectively.
Upreti said that despite many problems, paddy transplantation in Province 1 has progressed at a faster rate due to a good and timely monsoon.
He said that farmers had been receiving DAP but there was a severe shortage of urea. “As urea is expected to arrive by mid-July, it will not significantly impact paddy production,” he said.
Nepal imposed a complete lockdown on March 24 after the second Covid-19 case was confirmed in the country. As of Wednesday, the national Covid-19 tally had reached 10,728.
On April 27, the federal government loosened restrictions and allowed farmers to work in their fields so that the country would not face a food shortage after issuing several dos and don’ts to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development published guidelines instructing farm workers to keep at least 1 metre away from each other.