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Self-sufficient in food when?

The country can become self-sufficient in many types of agricultural production if only the government supports the farmers. Government support should be in easy availability of irrigation facilities, improved seeds and fertilizers.

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It is an ironic situation that the country known as an agricultural country has to import billions of rupees worth of agricultural products every year. In 10 months of the current financial year, Nepal has to spend only 23 billion 90 million rupees on the import of rice, corn and wheat.

Self-sufficient in food when?

Although arable land is scarce, oilseeds, vegetables and fruits are also being imported in significant quantities. While there is a strong possibility that the country can become self-sufficient in these products. But due to insufficient attention of the state in production and productivity growth and commercialization, farmers are moving away from farming, land is becoming barren and dependence on agricultural crops is continuing.

According to the data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, one third of the arable land is barren. Although two-thirds of the arable land is being cultivated, there are problems with irrigation, seeds and fertilizers. In many cases, the farming system is traditional, so more effort is required, but the production is not cost-effective. Those engaged in commercial farming are able to deliver their products to the market, but even if they deliver to the market, they do not get a reasonable price because the cost of production is high.

That's why the trend of choosing the option of farming is increasing. According to the Agricultural Census 2078, 62 percent of all households in Nepal are farmers, compared to 71 percent in the census 10 years ago. In the year 2068, 14 lakh 56 thousand hectares of rice was planted, while according to the calculation of 2078, the rice crop has shrunk to 12 lakh 16 thousand hectares. Due to the decrease in rice cultivation, the country has reached a situation where it has to import rice worth 10.86 billion in just 10 months of the current financial year. During the same period of the previous year, the domestic production decreased even more. Paddy worth 16.95 billion rupees was imported. The situation of other food products is almost the same.

For farming, the problem for farmers starts with seeds and fertilizers. Improved seeds can increase yield but most farmers do not have access to improved seeds. Farmers are always struggling to get chemical fertilizers in time and in sufficient quantities. According to the Agricultural Census 2078, only about 55 percent of the land cultivated by farmers has irrigation facilities.

Other areas have to depend on sky water. That is why rice production is more in the year when the rains are early and sufficient, imports are reduced. The government has initiated various projects to provide irrigation facilities, but sometimes they are stalled due to disputes and irregularities, sometimes due to extreme delays, the projects are not being completed. It is difficult to get proper treatment when there is an increase in the incidence of diseases and insects in crops.

The government is announcing in the annual policy and program and budget that agricultural production, productivity increase and commercialization will be done. Programs such as subsidies and insurance facilities are being introduced to encourage farmers. But the effectiveness of those programs has always been questioned. There is a problem of subsidy being misused, government not paying on time. Sugarcane farmers had to wait more than a year for last year's subsidy.

Farmers are in trouble after the insurance companies have stopped selling agricultural insurance since the government did not pay the subsidy for the agricultural insurance fee. Due to similar weaknesses in the implementation side, the farmers are not excited even when the government mentions in the policies and programs of the next financial year that 'investment in agriculture will be increased and programs in the agricultural sector will be restructured to be self-sufficient in food grains and vegetables'.

The country can become self-sufficient in many types of agricultural production if only the government supports the farmers. Government support should be in easy availability of irrigation facilities, improved seeds and fertilizers. Farmers can be attracted to commercial farming even if subsidies or subsidized loans can be arranged. Costs are high in traditional farming systems, the produce cannot compete with imported ones in the market. Therefore, farmers should be guided towards modern farming systems that can produce more at low cost.

The government has set the support price of some agricultural products so that the farmers are not cheated, but such price should be reasonable and should be fixed in time. Ensuring marketability of agricultural produce is most important. It is necessary to support the government, especially the local level, to prepare a mechanism to deliver the crops produced in the village to the market.

प्रकाशित : जेष्ठ ९, २०८१ ०६:५८
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