Rice import up even as paddy production increases

In the current fiscal, paddy production has hit all-time high of 5.6 million tones

Kathmandu, June 29

Although paddy production in the country has been increasing every year it has failed to substitute rice import. The government has been claiming that the country is producing paddy that is enough to almost meet the market demand. However, rice import has also been rising along with the increase in paddy production.

In the current fiscal year, paddy production has hit an all-time high of 5.6 million tonnes increasing by 9.8 per cent compared to 5.1 million tonnes in the previous fiscal. Meanwhile, in fiscal 2016-17 paddy production stood at 5.23 million tonnes. As per the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), the demand for rice in the market stands at around four million tonnes at the moment and local production can meet the demand of around 3.4 million tonnes only.

As per the ministry, paddy productivity has reached 3.8 tonnes per hectare in the current fiscal, increasing by 8.6 per cent compared to the previous fiscal. The bumper harvest of paddy in the current fiscal has been achieved because of the Nepal-IRRI Collaborative five-year work plan (2018-2023), along with several other plans and programmes, said Tej Bahadur Subedi, spokesperson for MoALD. Despite both productivity and production increasing import has been on rise.

In the first 10 months of the current fiscal rice worth Rs 278 million was imported. In comparison, rice worth Rs 241 million was imported in the same period of fiscal 2017-18.

Similarly, in the corresponding period of fiscal 2016- 17, rice worth Rs 202 million was imported. Improved production has failed to reduce the import volume as per the government’s expectation.

Responding to this issue the ministry said that the changing habits of consumers has also boosted rice import. As per MoALD, most Nepali consumers prefer refined or white rice which is imported from India. Although the country has the capacity to meet the market demand rice import has been growing due to the changing taste of the public, the ministry stated.

Amid this the ministry has targeted 19 per cent growth in paddy production in the next five years. The MoALD had set a target to increase paddy production based on the government’s 15th five-year national plan. The agricultural sector has 27 per cent contribution in the country’s gross domestic product and rice has 20 per cent contribution to this total.