Paddy power

  • Nepal should cut down its dependence on rain and expand irrigation facilities

Dec 15, 2016-While the political paralysis continues to hit the country’s economy, one feel-good factor that has just trickled in is the government projection that summer paddy output will jump by a remarkable 15.70 percent to 5.54 million tonnes in the current fiscal year. 

The all-time high production of a major cereal grain is expected to give a big boost to the economic growth this fiscal year, as paddy makes a contribution of around 7 to 8 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). It is said a 10 percent rise in paddy production boosts the country’s economic growth rate by 1 percentage point.

Nepal’s economy has expanded by an average of around 4 percent per year in the last one decade, which is very low for a country with tremendous growth potential. The best growth rate recorded by the country in the recent years was in 2013-14, when GDP expanded by 5.7 

percent. This was an indication that Nepal had finally started to gear up for higher trajectory of economic growth. But the devastating earthquake of April 25, 2015, subsequent aftershocks and a long border blockade limited the growth rate to 2.32 percent in the fiscal year 2014-15. 

Just as Nepalis were expecting post-earthquake reconstruction works to spur growth, India imposed a trade blockade from September 2015 to February 2016, chocking supplies of petroleum products, raw materials and other essentials. This reduced the country’s growth to a 14-year low of 0.8 percent in 2015-16. 

However, the situation has changed this year; supplies have normalised and agricultural output is expected to soar. This has prompted multilateral lending institutions to make economic growth projection of as high as 5 percent for this fiscal year.

Many developing countries have managed to achieve higher growth rates due to diversification in economic activities. That has happened in Nepal too, as the economy is gradually shifting from agriculture to services and to some extent industries. Yet agriculture’s share in the GDP still stands at over 30 percent, making it one of our major sectors that determine the economy’s fate.

Since the output of the agricultural sector depends on rain, an external factor, a good 

monsoon is a harbinger of good news in our case. Since we are so heavily dependent on rain for our growth, it is perhaps important to stress that we cut down our dependence on it and expand irrigation facilities. Nepal has around 2.6 million hectares of arable land, of which 1.8 million hectares could be irrigated. But around 40 percent of the irrigable land is yet to be connected to the irrigation network. This makes it important to expedite construction of irrigation projects, such as Sikta, Babai, and Rani-Jamara-Kulariya and multipurpose projects such as Bheri-Babai Diversion. 

Therefore, along with farm mechanisation, the government should also focus on early completion of irrigation projects, so that the country’s agricultural sector could end its reliance on the skies. For now, let’s bask in the high paddy yield. 

Published: 15-12-2016 08:45

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