Rajaram Karki, RSS (KATHMANDU, 1 July 2022) – The government statistics for the last one decade indicate the country’s rising dependency on rice.
In fiscal year 2069-70 BS (2012-13), rice worth Rs 20 billion was imported in the country and the figure rose by 150 percent to touch Rs 50 billion in the first eleven months of the current fiscal. According to the Department of Customs, in the first eleven months of current fiscal, rice, kanika (fragmented rice) and dhuto (husk powder) worth Rs 50 billion was imported.
Nepal majorly imports rice from India, China, Vietnam, the United States of America and Thailand. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, the import of fine and aromatic rice make up 70 percent in the import chart and high-class people and hotels are the users of these varieties of rice products. The government in the budget for the fiscal year announced to make the country self-sufficient on rice by coming five years.
Though the government had planned to increase rice production through the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project since the fiscal year 2073-74 BS, the positive results remained unmet. The country during the fiscal year 2012-13 saw the 454,503 metric tons of rice. According to government data, of around 310,000 hectares of arable land in Nepal, paddy farming is possible on the fifty percent of it. The National Census of Agriculture 2011-12 conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that 100,000 hectares of land has remained unused in Nepal. Agriculture census is being conducted in every 10 years.
The seventh agro census was conducted from April 19 and concluded on May 2 in the country. Officer at the Central Bureau of Statistics, Hemraj Regmi, said it will still take seven months to make public the census. There is no any authentic detail about how much arable land have been turned into plotting, as well as eroded by river till the date. Although every government for the past three fiscal years through the budget has been declaring to bring a strict law prohibiting people from keeping their land barren, it has not been implemented yet. A total of 5.047 million metric tonnes of paddy was produced in the fiscal year 2070/71. Paddy was planted on 1.486 hectares of land on the fiscal year 2070/71. Total 155,000 metric tonnes of paddy was in stock on the same year.
The issue of increasing paddy production through land plotting of arable land, collective farming has been raised in every budget, but the implementation side is weak, said agronomist, Laba Prasad Tripathi. Out of ten consecutive years, Nepal saw highest production of rice in the fiscal year 2020/21 was 5 million 621 thousand 710 metric tonnes. Rice was planted across 1,473,478 hectares of land. But the same year Nepal imported rice worth Rs 45 billion. The arable land and pocket areas for paddy cultivation have been continuously diminishing since the fiscal year 2003/04, the Ministry’s data shows.
The paddy cultivation done across 1,477,378 hectares land in 2003/04 shrunk to 82,058 hectares over 19 years. Rice worth around Rs 200 billion was imported from fiscal year 2015/16 to 2020/21. Rice, the staple crop of the country, is grown in around 1.5 million hectares of land and it requires around 6 million metric tonnes of rice annually to feed around 30 million population of the country. Experts emphasize cultivation of rice during spring (mid-March to mid-April), availability of fertilizers, seedlings and irrigation facilities for boosting rice production in the country. Nepal Agricultural Research Council’s former senior scientist Dr Bhawa Prasad Tripathi viewed that Nepal could again gain self-sufficiency in rice within five years if the government takes into account a number of measures such as construction of big irrigation projects, plantation of monsoon season paddy crop on 400 thousands hectares area and to prevent fishery industries in the land suitable for rice production.