Saturday, October 22, 2011

Food Reserve projected to rise

The government has projected a higher food reserve as the latest census has shown the population to be lower than estimated. Nepal experienced a food surplus in the last fiscal year - after two straight years of deficit.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), Nepal's food reserve increased to, 553,057 tonnes from the previously estimated 110,634 tonnes based on the revised estimate. The recent census showed Nepal's population to be 26.6 million, lower than the estimated 28.4 million. Preliminary population statistics had forced the ministry to increase food reserves.

The country had a food deficit of 330,000 tonnes and 132,000 tonnes in fiscal years 2009-10 and 2008-09 respectively. "With the country's population dipping from the projected growth trend, food surplus, has increased significantly," said MoAC Spokesperson Hari Dahal.

Based on the consumption rate of 191 kg per person per year (a standard fixed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the country's annual food requirement has come down to 5.08 million tonnes from the earlier projection of 5.4 million tonnes. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the country's annual population growth rate dropped to 1.4 percent from 2.2 percent recorded in the 2001 census.

The MoAC's statistics show that 8.615 million tonnes of food were produced in the last fiscal year. Of the total output, 367,000 tonnes were used as livestock feed while 3.735 million tonnes were used as seed and lost to damage during the post-harvest season. Total edible food production in 2010-11 has been recorded at 5.4 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, Nepal's agriculture sector also witnessed good growth in the last fiscal year due to favorable weather conditions. Agriculture experts said that Nepal could regain the status of a food surplus country after two years due to an increase in food production resulting from an early monsoon and good rains.

"In the pas three decades, the agriculture sector's contribution to the country's GDP has been falling as a result of low productivity, and if we consider ourselves happy at the increased food reserve for a while, this happiness is transitory," said economist Bishwombher Pyakurel.

Overall, food grain (rice, maize, wheat, millet, barley, and buck wheat) output grew 11 percent in the last fiscal year. Nepal has been importing food since 2005. Following a food deficit, according to MoAC, Nepal imported around 227,000 tonnes to food annually during the period of 2005-10. It imported 290,000 tonnes of food in the last fiscal year 2010-11.

The MoAC said that the number of food deficit districts had come down to 33 from 38. According to the MoAC, 33 out of the country's 75 districts are still sort of food. "However, the good news is that the number of food deficit districts is gradually declining" Dahal said. In 2009-10, the country's food deficit districts numbered 43.

Among the districts suffering food shortages are six districts in the Tarai, the country's grain basket. As per the MoAC report, 27 districts in the hills still have a food deficit.

Food Reserve Surplus
Belts                  District Production (In tonnes)  Deficit/Surplus (in tonnes)    Revised (deficit/surplus)
Mountain                16     333875                           -49452                          -13000
Hills                        38     2256322                           -201077                          -50000
Tarai                        21     2922678                            401162                           506000

Total Production   8.615 million tonnes
Livestock feeds          367000 tonnes
Seeds and spoiled   2.735 million tonnes
Requirements           5.08 million tonnes
Surplus                  443057 tonnes

Source: The Kathmandu Post

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