Housing development takes over paddy fields

- binod bhandari, Biratnagar

Jan 23, 2015-

Chum Narayan Tawadar of Biratnagar-5 now spends Rs 40,000 annually on buying rice, when in the not too distant past, the landowner used to produce 2,000 maunds of paddy per year (1 maund = 37 kg).

This reversal of tradition resulted from a rapid decline in the family’s landholdings through sales for residential development. Tawadar’s family used to own more than 45 bighas of land in Biratnagar-5 and Siswani Badahara of Morang district.

He has sold 24 bighas out of the 31 bighas he owned in Biratnagar, and plans to sell the rest to housing developers.

Similarly, the family’s paddy fields in Morang are now being used for pig and fish farming instead.

“We used to plant paddy on 45 bighas of land in the past, but we don’t plant this crop even on one bigha of land now,” said Tawadar.

He opted for business as he wasn’t even breaking even by growing rice.

“We could neither get seeds nor water and fertilizer on time,” he complained.

“There is also a scarcity of farm hands, and even when they are available, they demand very high wages.” Tawadar has become a wholesale trader of medicines produced by around 50 companies.

It is not only Tawadar’s family that has given up paddy farming. His relatives Badri  Tawadar, Madhav Tawadar, Hari Tawadar and Dhanilal Tawadar abandoned agriculture five years ago.

They used to plant paddy on 50 bighas of land in Biratnagar and Siswani Badahara. They have also been selling their fertile lands to real estate developers.

Similarly, another farmer Shiva Shankar Majhi from Tettariya-9 has been planning to give up paddy farming. He decided to divide his 2 bighas of land into housing plots and sell them after failing to recover his investment by growing rice. “I have planned to do business with the money I will get by selling my land,” he added.

Fertile fields along the main highway and auxiliary roads in Morang, Sunsari and Jhapa can be seen left uncultivated for residential development.

While land use trends have been changing, the country has been increasingly importing Indian rice.

During the first half of the current fiscal year, rice imports through Biratnagar customs doubled compared to the same period in the last fiscal year.

According to the statistics released by the Customs Office, Biratnagar, the country imported rice worth Rs 1.33 billion during the first half of this fiscal year against Rs 747.9 million during the same period last year.

“Shrinking farm lands and a rise in the number of consumers along with swelling demand from the hilly regions has resulted in a surge in rice imports from India,” said Rajendra Upreti, chief of the District Agriculture Development Office, Morang.

According to him, with people using fertile land for building houses, raising fish, making bricks and other construction activities, the area under paddy cultivation in Morang has decreased by 6,000 hectares this year.

Upreti said that increased demand for rice in the hilly regions due to the changing food habits of the people there also contributed to a hike in the import of Indian rice.

According to the Regional Agriculture Directorate, farm lands used for paddy cultivation have decreased by 64,000 hectares this year.

The area where paddy is grown came down to 411,775 hectares this year against 475,469 hectares last year. However, paddy production was up 17.73 percent this year, the directorate said.

Published: 24-01-2015 09:25

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