Food crisis can be averted: Mahat

Kathmandu, July 28:

Nepal needs heavy investment in irrigation to increase its farm output, said finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat here today while speaking at a round table conference on ‘Food Situation and Humanitarianism’, jointly organised by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and World Food Programme (WFP).

He complained of ‘reluctance’ of donor agencies in investing in irrigation projects in Nepal saying they had not invested in any major irrigation project here in a decade. “To resolve the food crisis, we should focus on more investment in irrigation,” Dr Mahat said.

“Research in agriculture sector is yet another important factor,” he said adding that

the world was facing food crisis but Nepal was still in a position to plan ahead for food security by increasing investment in agriculture and irrigation. “The private sector and the government should work together,” he suggested.

Nepal has felt a limited impact of the food crisis as the country witnessed good agricultural production this year, Dr Mahat said adding that the scarcity of food in rural areas was due to hike in transportation cost and already rampant poverty in these areas. “What we need is systematic planning to reduce the shortage of food in those areas in particular, and in the country as a whole,” he added.

Dr Mahat also said neighbour countries had stopped the export of their agricultural produce to Nepal and that the country needed to find ways to raise food production by investing more in agricultural to meet the rising domestic demand of food.

Speaking on the occasion, UNWFP’s country director Richard Ragan said that Nepal’s poor people invest 70 per cent of their total income to just to buy food. “UNWFP is planning to supply food items to around three million Nepalis this year,” he added.

FNCCI president Kush Kumar Joshi said the government’s estimation of food surplus was not correct as the marketable surplus of food was not adequate.

FNCCI senior vice-president Suraj Vaidya concluding the inaugural session, said, “We need an effective food policy. Without the policy makers’ concern the crisis cannot be effectively handled.”

Vaidya added the country was suffering due to structural insecurity and manpower shortage in agriculture sector.