Farm sector faces ‘over Rs10b’ losses

Farm sector faces ‘over Rs10b’ losses

May 14, 2015-

The 7.9 magnitude April 25 earthquake has caused losses in the agricultural sector of around Rs 10.11 billion in 14 districts, according to the Ministry of Agricultural Development.

This preliminary figure, however, does not include losses to standing crops--maize, wheat and vegetables--and additional losses created by Tuesday’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake.   

The ministry’s preliminary report showed that out of 31 districts affected by the earthquake, the farm sector in 14 had been severely impacted.

The ministry sought Rs 8 billion from the National Planning Commission on Thursday for a farm recovery plan.

Of the total amount, Rs 3 billion is being for immediate release, where the government plans to distribute 400 tonnes of fully subsidised paddy seeds to the most-affected districts.

The ministry said that the supply of subsidised chemical fertilisers will also be made easier in these districts.

Shankar Sapkota, assistant spokesperson at the ministry, said that the government has also estimated further losses to the agriculture sector triggered by Tuesday’s quake.

According to Sapkota, losses of food stocked by farmers in houses that collapsed completely in the quake alone stood at Rs 8.11 billion.

An estimated 132,000 tonnes of food stock has been buried in the debris of collapsed houses in 14 districts. Food losses in other districts amount to about 3,000 tonnes.

Sapkota further said that livestock losses amount to Rs 887.5 million, particularly in Sindhupalchok, Kavre, Gorkha, Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts.  

The ministry’s preliminary figures showed that the quake had buried 31,587 cattle, including 10,514 buffaloes and cows. Similarly, 303,709 fowl were killed by the quake.  

“However, there were no significant damages reported to standing crops like maize, wheat and vegetables,” said Sapkota.

“But the output of these crops is likely to be affected to some extent, as farmers have relocated their settlements on the farmland. Landslides triggered by Tuesday’s quake have also swept away most farm plots in hilly areas.”  Meanwhile, the ministry said that losses of physical infrastructure amounted to Rs 1.12 billion. Around 169 infrastructures under the ministry have been destroyed completely, while 254 properties had sustained minor damage.  

No Food Deficit

Spokesperson Sapkota said that the country would not suffer from a food deficit or widespread starvation. “We still have 500,000 tonnes of food balance to meet the extra demand,” he said.

“However, if the distribution channel is not effective, it could increase the number of food deficit districts,” cautioned Sapkota. As the quake did not significantly affect Tarai districts, the country’s food basket, the ministry is hopeful that summer crop--paddy, maize and millet--production will address the country’s food deficit.

However, the deterioration of the environment looks likely to contribute to increased natural hazards, as well as droughts and floods.

As the quake hit the country just before the start of the main paddy growing season, the inability of disaster-struck farmers to return to their farms could affect production, particularly in the hills.

Normally, paddy production in the hills starts from May-end, while in the Tarai, it normally begins in July-August and stretches to September, based on the availability of the monsoon rains.

Experts said that the distribution, intensity and frequency of the monsoon would be key for the farm sector this season. “If there are heavy rains, there will be risks of floods and landslide and if there is less rain, agriculture will be severely affected,” Sapkota said. “Modest rainfall, however, will balance all things.”

Published: 15-05-2015 08:38

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