Money

Nepal poised to harvest largest ever paddy crop

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Oct 29, 2018-

Nepali farmers look set to harvest the largest paddy crop in history this fiscal year because of timely and sufficient monsoon rains, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development said. Ministry officials added that a record harvest would bring down the country’s rice import bill besides significantly contributing to the government’s economic growth target as the economy is strongly dependent on farm production.

This fiscal year’s paddy output is expected to reach 5.66 million tonnes, up 10 percent from the 2017-18 harvest, said Yubak Dhoj GC, secretary at the ministry. “This optimism is based on the better-than-expected rainfall this year.”

According to GC, paddy transplantation was completed on more than 95 percent of the 1.55 million hectares of rice fields this fiscal year, and there were no shortages of chemical fertilizer in key paddy producing areas, particularly in the southern Tarai plains which is known as the country’s food basket.

“Due to timely and regular monsoon, productivity has increased. There were no disease outbreaks and floods either.” GC said that the increased output would help the government meet its 8 percent economic growth target to some extent. “At the same time, we expect the country will be removed from the food deficit list this year.”

The monsoon is the lifeblood for Nepal’s farm-dependent Rs3 trillion economy. According to GC, the country’s economy depends on how the monsoon behaves as less than 30 percent of the farmlands have round-the-year irrigation facility. “If we can increase the round-the-year irrigation coverage to 80 percent of the land, we can potentially produce around 10 million tonnes of paddy annually.”

The country gets about 70 percent of its annual rainfall during the monsoon season that lasts from June to September. This year, the monsoon entered Nepal on June 8, two days before the normal onset date.

Nepal is an agricultural country with 66 percent of the population being directly engaged in farming which accounts for about 27 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product (GDP). Due to this reason, a failed monsoon can have a ripple effect on the country’s growth and economy. A normal and well-distributed monsoon boosts farm output and farmers’ income, which in turn lifts rural incomes and boosts spending on consumer goods.

In the last fiscal year, Nepal’s paddy output totalled 5.15 million tonnes, down 1.49 percent from the 2016-17 bumper harvest, mostly on account of the August floods in the southern Tarai plains. The country suffered record floods following torrential rains from August 11-14 that inundated huge tracts of land in 31 districts. Recently, Nepal Rastra Bank said in its macroeconomic report that the favourable monsoon promised a good summer harvest this year.

With the turnaround in paddy production from a negative growth of 1.5 percent in 2017-18, a pickup in agricultural growth in 2018-19 is likely to underpin the sustained rebound in overall GDP growth seen in the last two years, it said.

In the previous fiscal year 2016-17, the country recorded the highest paddy production in history with a 21.66 percent jump to 5.23 million tonnes. That year, the country achieved a 23-year high economic growth rate of 7.39 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: 29-10-2018 10:00

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