Surdurpaschim braces for a food shortage with influx of returnees to the province amid pandemicA significant majority of Sudurpaschim natives returned to the province in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. This has led to a sudden increase in demand for food in the province
About 600,000 people from the Sudurpaschim Province migrate to India annually for employment. A majority of them returned home this year in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. This has led to a sudden increase in the demand for food in the province, which cannot produce enough food to suffice itself—one of the reasons many people are compelled to migrate to India for work. Amid this, experts and stakeholders predict that the province might reel under a food crisis this year.
The early signs of the food crisis have begun to appear, says Harka Singh Dhami, a local of Gokule in Darchula.
“The locals are subsisting on foodstuff provided by the local units as relief,” he said. “But apart from that, nobody I know has enough food to last a week.”
The provincial government has disbursed a budget ranging from Rs 2 to 5 million to all 88 local units in its jurisdiction to provide relief to families affected by the nationwide lockdown. The local units haven’t faced any trouble so far, but there are tell-tale signs that a crisis would unfold soon, said Anil Kumar Shrestha, provincial director of Nepal Food Management and Trade Company.
“Demands for food are rising from districts that are most vulnerable to food shortage,” Shrestha said. “The District Food Management Committee has asked us to manage stock to last until September-October. But our store is fast emptying. The stock would not even suffice to provide for the hilly districts that perennially face the food crisis.”
According to Shrestha, the Company’s warehouse currently has only 812 quintals of rice; the stock will, however, rise up to 14,000 quintals once the harvest from last year is processed. The warehouse has 2,854 quintals of wheat in store. The Company is processing to purchase an additional 20,000 quintals of rice this season, Shrestha said.
The Company distributes 25,000 quintals of rice to parts of Bajhang, Bajura, Darchula, Baitadi, and Achham.
“Going by the numbers, there are signs that the foodstuff won’t be sufficient for the nine districts in the province,” Shrestha said, adding that the province produced 35,000 metric ton food less this year in comparison with the previous year. The reasons for the downfall in production include faulty seeds and erratic rainfall, according to Khagendra Prasad Sharma, spokesperson for the Provincial Agriculture Directive.
According to the Directive, over a million people are at risk of food insecurity in the province every year. Over 2.8 million people in the province need over 543,000 metric tons of food every year.
Devi Khanal, a food rights activist in the province, said that the provincial government should introduce policies to tackle the impending crisis.
“After the coronavirus crisis, the province is at high risk of another crisis— food shortage,” he said. “The provincial government should introduce programmes and policies focusing on increasing agriculture production and generating employment opportunities for the thousands who have returned from India and overseas.”