Print Edition - 2016-03-24 | MONEY
Wheat output expected to plunge to 7-year low
Mar 24, 2016-
Nepal’s wheat harvest in fiscal 2015-16 is expected to hit a seven-year low as the crop acreage has contracted sharply due to a combination of political and climatic factors.
Output is forecast to plunge20.5 percent to 1.57 million tonnes, according to a report produced by Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
The first advance estimate of the 2015-16 wheat production in Nepal, which has been produced using the CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Toolbox (CRAFT), said that there would be a significant drop in production due to an estimated 5 percent decrease in the wheat acreage nationwide.The projected figure is a 16 percent decrease from the average production over the last five years, it said.
According to CRAFT, farmers planted wheat on less land due to two main reasons—a severe shortage of fuel for irrigation and land preparation and limited availability of chemical fertilizers. “Both these factors were caused by the political crisis in the Tarai and restricted cross-border trade with India from September 2015 to February 2016,” it said.
In addition, the cumulative rainfall during this winter season (November 2015 to January 2016) was far below the 30-year average.
“Because of inadequate soil moisture due to delayed and poor rains and limited irrigation due to the shortage of fuel, it was assumed in the CRAFT model run that the irrigated area decreased by 25 percent and wheat planting was delayed by 10 days.”
CRAFT is being piloted as part of the Nepal Food Security Monitoring System and is a new initiative to incorporate crop yield forecasting in Nepal with technical support from CCAFS South Asia. CRAFT was used to estimate paddy production in Nepal duringthe 2015 season.
The government is yet to produce a winter crop report. “The government’s winter crop projection will be similar to that of CRAFT,” said Yubak Dhoj GC, director general of the Department of Agriculture. He added that except in Bara, Kapilvastu and a few other districts, wheat production has been very poor.
Wheat farmers were struck by a double whammy during the planting season. A winter drought affected the plants during the ‘crown root initiation’ period, which is the critical time for plants as they need nutrients and water to grow, said GC. “Furthermore, farmers were unable to apply sufficient chemical fertilizers on their crops due to the prolonged Tarai unrest and border obstructions that sent the distribution system haywire.”
With paddy production affected by poor monsoon rains, shortage of chemical fertilizers and crop failure in a number of Tarai districts, asharp drop in wheat production could put Nepal at risk of food deficit this fiscal year, agro experts said.
According to the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the summer paddy output has dropped sharply by 10.22 percent to 4.29 million tonnes this fiscal year.
Ministry officials said that the country could face a deficit of more than 800,000 tonnes due to reduced paddy and wheat production.
Earlier, the ministry had projected that the food scenario could become positive if the output of the chief winter crop, wheat, jumped significantly.
FISCAL YEAR OUTPUT (millions of tonnes)
2015-16 1.57 (projected)
Published: 24-03-2016 08:36