Food shortages are slowly gripping many districts in the country, particularly the hilly areas. It needs no second thought as to the reasons behind this sorry state for an agricultural country that Nepal is. The lax agricultural policies pursued in the past has been the cause for the yearly food crisis in places like Humla. Despite the knowledge about the food deficit places in the country, no serious effort has been made to boost agricultural productivity. The consequence is that thousands have to remain contented with a meager meal, because the available resources cannot increase the agro yields. Besides the lack luster performance of the government agricultural line agencies, global warming too has impacted on the agricultural sector of late. This has led to climate shifts that is having drastic effects globally, more so in a monsoon-dependent traditional farming system.

The weather pattern this year has been devastating. The winter rains, with minor respite for a day or two, have failed. This has led to the farmers’ woes growing, and, thereby, the consumers are either deprived of their normal requirement or have to pay exorbitant prices when the supply side fails. If reports are to be believed, half of the 75 districts of Nepal will be facing acute food shortage, unless the government acts fast in earnest. This is a grim reminder of the fact that the talk of food security has been confined only in paper with no concrete action to back it up. In this connection, the Nepal Food Corporation (NFC), the government owned subsidized food supplier, has admitted that it has been able to transport only half of the required quantity of rice. This speaks of the gloomy prospect for the people of the districts where there is food scarcity. With an estimated 80 per cent drop in winter crop yield, the target of feeding the people will be an unsurmountable problem, unless foreign food loans or imports is resorted to.

The grim scenario could have been averted if the concept of food security were implemented starting decades back. But, the idea was more for the summits or minister level meets and not the action-oriented mode. The effects are being seen glaringly now with the prospect of more people having to go to bed with no meal if urgent measures do not fall into place within the shortest time possible. The government is also to be blamed because it should have prepared contingency plans quite ahead of the eleventh hour. Now, as the food crisis is gripping the country, the blame game cannot resolve the problem. This is the time to see how relief can be given to the people, trying to rein in food price hikes through appropriate measures to increase supply. As for banking on the country’s production itself, the NFC has already expressed its inability. Other means have to be explored through which food supply can be made to meet the requirement till, hopefully, monsoon makes its entry at the right time for plantation activities to continue smoothly. This is a lesson to be learnt for food security through buffer stocks that can be banked on in agriculturally lean times. It is for long-time perspectives to emerge so that food scarcity that regularly hits Karnali zone and districts of the Far Western Region can be eliminated with ease.