Paddy transplantation pace nearly as fast as last yearNepali farmers have transplanted paddy on 88.75 percent of 1.37 million hectares, Agriculture Department says.
Nepali farmers have been transplanting summer paddy almost at the same rapid pace as last year due to abundant rainfall and reverse migration to the villages, raising the prospect of yet another bumper harvest. Agricultural economists say it’s a good sign for the economy strangled by Covid-19.
According to the Department of Agriculture, transplantation has been completed on 88.75 percent of the 1.37 million hectares of land available for paddy cultivation as of Wednesday, courtesy of "above normal rainfall" which Nepal recorded for the first time in many years this monsoon.
Experts say that the above normal rainfall forecast by the Nineteenth Session of the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum and the Climate Services Users Forum is good news.
The paddy transplantation rate was slightly higher at 91.68 percent in the same period last year. During the last monsoon, Nepal had recorded the fastest-ever transplantation in many decades.
“The latest transplantation rate of paddy is encouraging. This year too, the lockdown coincided with the paddy transplantation period, and migrant workers returned home in droves, particularly from India,” said Mahadev Prasad Paudel, senior agricultural economist at the department.
Nepal’s economic wellbeing is intimately linked with the rainy season. Water from the skies is the lifeblood of Nepal's Rs4.26 trillion economy which is farm-dependent, as nearly two-thirds of the farmlands are rain-fed.
A large part of the country gets nearly 80 percent of its annual rainfall during the four months—June to September.
The production of food grain, mainly rice, depends on the amount and distribution of monsoon rainfall over the country. The monsoon rains also replenish ground water and reservoirs critical for drinking and power generation.
“Monsoon rain is key for Nepal’s economy as it boosts agricultural production,” said Hem Raj Regmi, deputy director general at the Central Bureau of Statistics.
“Paddy alone contributes around 7 percent to the national gross domestic product, and is the major income source for more than half of the population,” said Regmi who holds a doctoral degree in food security.
If the agriculture sector grows by 4-5 percent, the overall economy may grow by 4 percent this fiscal year.
“The direct impact of paddy is big. Indirectly, it boosts the manufacturing and service sectors as well.”
Paddy is transplanted in June and harvested in October.
During the last fiscal year 2020-21 ended mid-July, the country’s paddy production reached 5.62 million tonnes, a record high for the fourth straight year due to "normal monsoon" rains and a plentiful supply of farmhands, even though a severe shortage of chemical fertiliser during transplantation and top dressing had spread worry among farmers.
“With the abundant and timely rainfall activity and availability of chemical fertilizer, we expect the paddy output to increase by 5-10 percent to reach 6 million tonnes—which will be an all-time high production figure this year,” said Paudel. “But production will depend on how the monsoon behaves. If there are no floods and pest infection, the largest harvest is attainable.”
The department said that paddy transplantation may be completed on 98 percent of the land this year in a few weeks.
This year, the monsoon entered Nepal's skies from the east on June 11, a day past the normal date, according to the Meteorological Forecasting Division.
The department’s statistics show that paddy transplantation has been completed on 87.16 percent of the 48,193 hectares of fields in the mountain region.
Transplantation in the hills and Tarai has been completed on 85.35 percent of 346,099 hectares and 90.03 percent of 977,414 hectares respectively.
The Tarai, which is the largest paddy producing region in the country, accounts for 71 percent of the total rice acreage. The hills account for 25 percent and the mountain region 4 percent.
In terms of provincial distribution, Sudurpaschim province saw the highest transplantation rate of 96.74 percent of 164,639 hectares of land, followed by Karnali province with 93.82 percent of 38,385 hectares, Lumbini province with 92.24 percent of 303,593 hectares and Bagmati province with 90.34 percent of 115,295 hectares.
The transplantation rates in Province 2 and Gandaki province have been recorded at 88.14 percent of 365,615 hectares and 87.64 percent of 108,278 hectares respectively. Province 1 has the lowest paddy transplantation record of 80.02 percent of 275,901 hectares of land, according to the department.