Paddy mission programme falls flat

Kathmandu, August 25

The mission programme on paddy production launched last year has completely failed to deliver the desired results as paddy production declined to 4.26 million tonnes in fiscal 2015-16 as compared to 4.79 million tonnes in the previous fiscal.

The paddy mission programme was expected to boost the productivity of paddy from the existing 3.1 tonnes per hectare to five tonnes per hectare. However, the government failed to deliver the expected results.

The paddy mission programme had envisioned cultivating paddy two times in a year so that the desired productivity could be achieved. The government failed to achieve the desired results due to lack of preparation for the programme.

The Crop Development Directorate (CDD) under the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) has been saying that the severe drought last year during the plantation time affected the programme, but the fact is that the programme failed to make necessary arrangements for the paddy plantation.

Under the paddy mission programme, the government had allocated funds worth Rs 40.2 million. However, the CDD was able to spend just Rs 16.2 million, according to Dila Ram Bhandari, programme director for CDD, the executing agency for the programme.

The MoAD had instructed the CCD to mobilise the fund for installation of shallow tube wells and adopt System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which needs less water and less seedlings, because seedbeds in the Tarai districts were overaged or had crossed the plantation period as the drought prolonged last year.

The government had launched the paddy mission programme in 13 districts of the Tarai, which is also called the rice bowl of the country. The 13 districts selected for the programme were Jhapa, Sunsari, Morang, Sarlahi, Bara, Parsa, Rupandehi, Dang, Kapilvastu, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur.

“Though drought did affect the regular plantation season which falls between July and August, the CDD failed to extend necessary support for plantation in the ‘April’ season,” one of the senior officials at the ministry said.

The government has expanded the programme to 35 districts in this fiscal to make the country self-reliant in food production and paddy is a major crop. Due to less-effective implementation of such programmes, import of cereal crops has been skyrocketing every year.

According to the MoAD, the country’s food production was in a deficit of 71,000 tonnes than the demand in 2015-16, which is also the reason why the import of agricultural commodities increased in this fiscal. According to the Department of Customs, the country imported cereals worth Rs 34 billion in the last fiscal.