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Nepal slides back into food deficit

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Jul 20, 2016-

Nepal slid back into a food deficit this fiscal year after recording surpluses for the last five years, largely due to a sharp drop in cereal production triggered by multiple environmental and political stresses.

According to the statistics of the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the country has a food deficit of 71,387 tonnes. Last year’s edible grain output totalled 5.27 million tonnes against the requirement of 5.34 million tonnes.

Food deficit is calculated on the basis of a country’s total output that is unable to feed the population. Nepal’s overall cereal crop output dropped for the second straight year to 8.61 million tonnes last year, recording a decline of 7 percent.

The country produced 652,000 tonnes less food grain as severe droughts, floods, earthquakes and fertilizer and diesel shortages due to unrest in the Tarai took their toll on both summer and winter harvests.

Wheat output plunged 12.1 percent to a six-year low of 1.73 million tonnes and paddy output, the country’s major cereal crop, fell 10.2 percent to 4.29 million tonnes.

“The food deficit has already sent the import bill soaring,” said Dinesh Bhattarai, chief statistician at the ministry. “Nepal’s food imports have not been factored into the deficit.” He said that a good monsoon this year has raised hopes for a fine summer harvest this year.

The Trade and Export Promotion Centre said the country’s cereal import bill jumped 9 percent to Rs35 billion in the first 11 months of the last fiscal year. 

According to the ministry, 36 districts in the country are facing food deficit, meaning that their output is unable to feed their population.

Kathmandu has the highest food deficit of 365,733 tonnes among the country’s 75 districts. The capital produces 58,730 tonnes of cereal crops while it requires 424,463 tonnes to feed its teeming population of 2.1 million. Chitwan and Lalitpur districts have the second and third highest food deficit in the country. Chitwan produces 28,093 tonnes of food against its requirement of 113,994 tonnes.

Likewise, Lalitpur produces 38,978 tonnes compared to its requirement of 107,200 tonnes. Region-wise, the Eastern Region has the highest surplus food reserve of 206,642 tonnes. It produces 1.33 million tonnes while its requirement is 1.12 million tonnes. The Central Region has a food deficit of 500,774 tonnes. It produces 1.49 million tonnes while it needs 1.99 million tonnes.

The Tarai belt has a surplus food reserve of 148,953 tonnes. The Tarai produces 2.73 million tonnes against its requirement of 2.58 million tonnes, according to the ministry’s statistics. During the last 10 years, Nepal recorded a food surplus for six years and a deficit for four years. The country saw the highest food deficit of 485,000 tonnes in 1994-95, according to the ministry. The highest food surplus of 943,161 tonnes was observed in 2011-12 when the country produced a bumper harvest.

 

Published: 20-07-2016 08:41

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