Rice worth Rs 50bn imported in 11 months of current FY

Farmers plant paddy in a field on the occation of National Paddy day in Khandbari Municipality-8 of Sankhuwasabha district, on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Photo: RSS

KATHMANDU: The government statistics for the last decade indicate the country’s rising dependency on rice. In the fiscal year 2069/70 BS (2012/13), rice worth Rs 20 billion was imported into the country and the figure rose by 150% to touch Rs 50 billion in the first 11 months of the current fiscal.

According to the Department of Customs, in the first 11 months of the current fiscal, rice, kanika (fragmented rice) and dhuto (husk powder) worth Rs 50 billion were imported.

Nepal mainly imports rice from India, China, Vietnam, the USA and Thailand. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), the import of fine and aromatic rice makes up 70% of the import chart. High-class people and hotels are the users of these varieties of rice products.

The government in the budget announced to make the country self-sufficient in rice in the 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 454,503 metric tonnes of rice. According to government data, of around 310,000 hectares of arable land in Nepal, paddy farming is possible on 50% of it. The National Census of Agriculture 2011/12 conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) shows that 100,000 hectares of land have remained unused in Nepal.

The agriculture census is conducted every 10 years. The seventh agro census was conducted on April 19 and concluded on May 2 in the country.

Officer at CBS, Hemraj Regmi, said it will still take seven months to make public the census.

There is not any authentic detail about how much arable land has been turned into plotting and eroded by river to 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 million hectares of land in the fiscal year 2070/71.  Likewise, a total of 155,000 metric tonnes of paddy was in stock in the same year.

The issue of increasing paddy production through land plotting of arable land, and collective farming has been raised in every budget, but the implementation side is weak, said agronomist, Laba Prasad Tripathi.

Out of 10 consecutive years, Nepal saw 5,621,710 metric tonnes, the highest production of rice in the fiscal year 2020/21. 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 of land in 2003/04 shrunk to 82,058 hectares over 19 years.

Rice worth around Rs 200 billion was imported from the fiscal year 2015/16 to 2020/21.

Rice, the staple crop of the country, is grown in around 1.5 million hectares of land. It requires about 6 million metric tonnes of rice annually to feed about 30 million population in the country.

Experts emphasize rice cultivation during spring (mid-March to mid-April), and the availability of fertilisers, 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 took into account a number of measures such as the construction of big irrigation projects, plantation of monsoon season paddy crop on 400,000 hectares area and to prevent fishery industries in the land suitable for rice production.



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