Wheat output expected to fall ‘6 percent’

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jan 31, 2016-Nepal’s wheat production has been projected to fall sharply this year—after three straight years of growth—on account of winter drought across the country.

The Department of Agriculture has projected wheat output may drop by at least 6 percent. The estimate is based as of January-end. “If the dry spell continues for more than a week from here, the output could drop by double-digit figure,” said Yubak Dhoj GC, director general of the department. However, due to snowfalls in most highland areas, wheat production may not suffer much there.

GC said apart from wheat, production of other winter crops like barley and lentils are also likely to be hit. Due to adverse weather condition for the last few years, areas under lentils, which is the country’s top exporting commodities, has been declining.

“Rainfall between mid-December and mid-January is considered a boon for winter crops, particularly wheat. But the country has not seen rainfall as of January-end, which is the vital period for the plant to grow and flower,” he said. “Rains did not come for a long. It’s late now. Even if it rains by mid-February, damage would not be recovered.”

Wheat plantation was also affected due to the government’s failure to supply chemical fertilisers to farmers due to prolonged Tarai unrest and India’s trade embargo. During the peak wheat plantation period (October-November), the government was able to supply just 40 percent of the fertiliser demand. Around 90,000 tonnes of chemical fertilisers are required for winter crops, 80 percent of which are applied to wheat.

After poor paddy harvest, government officials had estimated the country could slide back to food deficit status this fiscal year after becoming a food surplus country in fiscal 2010-11. Nepal’s paddy output dropped sharply by 10.22 percent to 4.29 million tonnes this season. Paddy is the main cereal crop in Nepal, followed by maize and wheat.

According to officials of the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the country is expected to face a deficit of 800,000 tonnes of food this fiscal year due to reduced paddy production.

The ministry had said the food scenario could become positive if the output of the chief winter crop—wheat—jumps significantly. Even if the wheat output remains at last year’s level of 1.97 million tonnes, the country would face food deficit by 100,000 tonnes.

According to the ministry, wheat production rose 5 percent to 1.97 million tonnes in 2014-15, despite the April 25 earthquake that affected output in most hill districts. Wheat output in 2013-14 and 2012-13 was 1.88 million tonnes and 1.72 million tonnes respectively.

Published: 31-01-2016 09:34

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