Cereal crop output down for second straight year

- Sangam Prasain, Kathmandu
The country produced 652,000 tonnes less food grain this fiscal as drought affected both summer and winter harvests

Jun 24, 2016-Nepal’s overall cereal crop output has dropped 7 percent to 8.61 million tonnes this fiscal year, largely due to a sharp fall in paddy and wheat harvests. This is the second straight year that the country’s food grain output has recorded a decline. 

The production of almost all food grain has shrunk due to multiple environmental and political stresses—drought, flood, earthquake and unavailability of chemical fertilizers and diesel due to unrest in the Tarai. 

The annual crop production report unveiled by the Ministry of Agricultural Development on Thursday showed that the country produced 652,000 tonnes less food grain this fiscal year as severe drought affected both summer and winter harvests. 

However, government officials are optimistic that the farm sector will not see negative growth this fiscal year. The ministry estimates that there will be a surplus 30,000 tonnes despite the significant drop in food grain production. 

According to the ministry, wheat output plunged 12.1 percent to a six-year low of 1.73 million tonnes this fiscal year. Paddy output, the country’s major cereal crop, fell 10.2 percent to 4.29 million tonnes. 

The agriculture sector is estimated to grow at the rate of 1.14 percent this fiscal year based on the growth of wheat crops, the Central Bureau of Statistics said. 

“We had not expected that the wheat harvest --the third largest cereal crop--would drop by double digits,” said Shankar Sapkota, spokesperson for the ministry. “The decline was greater than our expectation, and it could affect the growth rate of the farm sector slightly,” he said. “But there will be no negative growth.”

According to the ministry, millet and barley production dropped 2 percent and 12.2 percent respectively to 302,397 tonnes and 32,806 tonnes. 

Meanwhile, maize and buckwheat output grew 4 percent and 7 percent to 2.23 million tonnes and 11,640 tonnes respectively. “The summer and winter crops this fiscal were largely affected by drought,” said Sapkota. 

According to the ministry, the country received 76.6 percent of normal rainfall during the last monsoon (June-September) while in the previous year it received 94 percent. The average winter rainfall (October-March) was recorded at 45.8 percent of normal rainfall as against 143.6 percent in the previous year. The government was also unable to distribute chemical fertilizers for winter crops due to the border blockade and Tarai protests. 

The ministry’s statistics show that only 135,493 tonnes of chemical fertilizers were shipped in the first eight months of this fiscal year, against 188,122 tonnes in the same period in the last fiscal year. Likewise, the farm sector was hit by fuel shortages caused bythe border blockade. A large number of farmers in the Tarai use diesel pumps to operate their tube wells for irrigation due to constant load-shedding. 

According to the ministry’s stats, the production of pulses is expected to drop 0.3 percent to 532,406 tonnes. Among spice crops, ginger output is projected to fall 7.8 percent to 263,140 tonnes while garlic output is predicted to shrink 4.4 percent to 45,390 tonnes respectively. 

However, the production of large cardamom, turmeric and chilli is expected to increase 3.6 percent, 3.8 percent and 9.8 percent to 5,540 tonnes, 72,425 tonnes and 40,400 tonnes respectively. 

In the cash crop category, tobacco output has been projected to fall 2.6 percent to 2,169 tonnes and jute is expected to plunge 21 percent to 13,050 tonnes. 

Sugarcane, oilseed and potato have been projected to increase 2.2 percent, 7.7 percent and 2 percent to 3.13 million tonnes, 209,498 tonnes and 2.78 million tonnes respectively. Vegetable and fruit 

production has been expected to climb 0.4 percent and 10.6 percent to 3.64 million 

tonnes and 1.09 million tonnes respectively. 

Likewise, coffee, tea, mushroom and honey output has been projected to increase 3.1 percent, 3.1 percent, 18.5 percent and 16.7 percent to 23,187 tonnes, 3,200 tonnes and 3,500 tonnes respectively. Nepal produced flowers valued at Rs1.06 billion this fiscal year. 

Published: 24-06-2016 09:35

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