KATHMANDU: Food deficit is going to hit Nepali poor in the later half of this fiscal year.
According to Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) there will be an acute shortage of over 7,00,000 metric tonnes (MT) of rice — a major staple food — due to draught in paddy cultivation season. The draught has also affected the production of maize, a major crop for hills.
To manage the food deficit, either a Nepali has to sleep 50 nights without food or the government has to import food grains from other countries. Last year, Nepal faced food deficit of 1,63,000 MT, meaning in average a Nepali slept 13 nights without food last year. The supply-demand disparity also caused price hike to 38 per cent in basic consumer goods like rice, wheat, lentil and edible oil.
According to MoCA, around 63 per cent of paddy farming land has only been cultivated so far. The ministry is adopting strategy of encouraging farmers to focus on winter crops providing subsidized fertilizer, improved seed and
pesticides. Department of Commerce (DoC) data reveals that
demand of rice is 33,00,891 MT for the fiscal year 2009-10 and the MoAC’s production projection is around 26,00,000 MT only. On an average, a Nepali consumes 122.1 kg rice in a year.
Kathmandu Valley alone
needs 3,30,673 MT rice, 24,644 MT lentils and 11,320 kilolitre edible oil for this year.
“The department is also preparing strategy to fulfill the deficit based on their demand projection,” said an officer at the department Kamal Bahadur Thapa.. “We are calculating demand and supply of food grains,” he said adding that the department has a data of actual demand of rice and oil. It has forwarded suggestions to Ministry of Commerce and Supply.
The DoC suggestion includes empowerment of the state mechanisms like Salt Trading Corporation, Nepal Food Corporation and National Trading for food supply, regular market monitoring and market intervention in hard times. “We have suggested to provide subsidized foods for urban and rural poor,” he added. But the ministry is not positive on the suggestion from the department saying that it would not be possible in present mechanism.
Director general Kailash Kumar Bajimaya had suggested the ministry to adopt three tire system including ration card for people below poverty line. About 21 per cent of ther total 270 million population falls in this category.
Consumer groups want immediate action to cope up with the food deficit. “As we know there will be food shortage after three-four months, the government must have a proper plan from now,” said Jyoti Baniya general secretary of Consumer Rights Protection Forum (CRPF). He also suggested to import food grains from India. “The government should talk to India at the earliest possible,” he said adding that to avoid the femine after four months, the government should act now.