Paddy output likely to hit new record despite floods


Nov 6, 2017-

The August floods which caused widespread death and destruction were a traumatic experience for the people in the southern Tarai plains, but the nutrients they brought to the farmlands enriched the soil and boosted productivity, prompting officials to predict another record harvest and hike in economic output.

The country suffered record floods following torrential rains from August 11-14 that inundated huge tracts of land in 31 districts. Initially, the government had estimated that the summer paddy output would be hit severely as transplantation had been completed on 95 percent of the 1.5 million hectares of paddy fields. 

“The paddy acreage may have shrunk this year, but we are expecting a higher output due to the silt and nutrients brought by the floods that have boosted productivity,” said Shankar Sapkota, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Agricultural Development.

He added that paddy productivity could increase to 3.57 tonnes per hectare compared to last year’s 3.37 tonnes per hectare. The initial figure is based on reports sent in by district agriculture offices, he said. Before the floods, the ministry had projected paddy output to swell to 5.4 million tonnes from the record production of 5.2 million tonnes in the last fiscal year. 

“Output reports are yet to come. However, based on the district reports, we think that production will increase slightly from last year’s level and set another record this year,” said Sapkota.

The supply of chemical fertilisers also reached a record 330,000 tonnes during the paddy growing season. A fall in global prices prompted the government to boost imports which allowed farmers to obtain adequate quantities of the soil nutrients. Increased use of fertiliser plays a key role in boosting output. 

Bhaba Prasad Tripathi, senior associate scientist at the International Rice Research Institute Nepal (IRRI-Nepal), said floods could be beneficial in many ways despite their immediate ill effects. The results were visible this year. 

Deposits of clay, silt and sand carried by flowing floodwaters normally used to 

cover the Tarai paddy fields, but this year this did not happen, he said. “This year, the floodwaters deposited nutrients on the soil that has increased paddy productivity,” Tripathi added.

“We looked at the paddy fields in Kailali, Kanchanpur and some districts in the Eastern Region, and the outcome is very encouraging,” he said, adding that there could be another bumper harvest this year. 

Some experts said that the August rainfall originated in the Chure range, the lowest foothills of the Himalaya, and that the impact on the paddy fields in the southern plains was not so great. 

Tripathi named three key factors behind the boost in paddy productivity this year. One, instead of depositing clay, silt and sand, the floodwaters brought down nutrients or organic manure from the hills to the Tarai. Two, the country witnessed uniform rainfall after the floods until the pre-harvest period. 

And three, a majority of farmers in the rain-fed lowlands have been transplanting submergence-tolerant paddy varieties like Swarna Sub-1 and Sawa Mansuli Sub-1 that can survive more than two weeks of complete submergence. “The plant recovers well from submergence by growing new shoots,” Tripathi said.

The farm sector’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to Rs691.2 billion in the last fiscal year. Paddy accounts for 20 percent of the total agricultural output. 

In the last fiscal year, the country achieved a 23-year-high economic growth rate of 6.9 percent on the back of a good monsoon that boosted agricultural output. Nepal’s farm sector registered a nine-year-high growth rate of 5.32 percent.  

Published: 06-11-2017 08:50

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