Food Security Dimensions of Nepal

Published On: July 24, 2021 12:36 PM NPT By: Suravi Regmi

Suravi Regmi

Suravi Regmi

The author is a BBA graduate in Marketing from Kathmandu College of Management and a former Marketing Manager for MIC Youths.

There are two basic objectives of the management of the food security chain: ensuring that adequate food is produced to satisfy consumer demand and supply to meet the minimum nutritional requirement.

At economic, political, and operational levels, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought agriculture into a dynamic debate. Although the total productivity of agriculture indicates growing patterns at the national level over the last decade, food accessibility, scarcity is rising, particularly in this situation of a pandemic. It is projected to hurt food security and nutrition, particularly among the most vulnerable and marginalized sections of society in Nepal.

According to a report published by the World Food Programme, at the provincial level, the highest apportion of households suffering from food scarcity was found in April 2020 in Karnali province (17.5%), followed by Province 5 (7.6%) and Sudur Paschim province (7.3%).

There are two basic objectives of the management of the food security chain: ensuring that adequate food is produced to satisfy consumer demand and supply to meet the minimum nutritional requirement.

The pattern of markets for food supply is crafted as per the needs for consumption of consumers. The estimates of food supply in Nepal are drawn on food security dimensions: availability, accessibility, utilization, stability, nutritional value, food safety, and future needs.


Food availability is largely dependent on factors like local production, foreign (export/import) trade. There is a challenge in cultivating fresh crops and vegetables in the offseason because of the lack of mechanized farming equipment, suitable fertilizers, and farming techniques. So, seasonality is one of the problems in fulfilling the nutritional needs of consumers which is 2200 calories per day for an adult. Whenever rice is in short supply in Karnali, people continue to mistakenly suspect the absence of food sufficiency in that region. There is a great potential to grow crops like barley and buckwheat throughout the year in the Karnali region and those crops provide comparatively extra nutritional benefits to consumers than rice. Therefore, consumers can increase the consumption levels of barley and buckwheat, ignoring the fact that rice is a staple crop of Nepalis. However, Nepal also carries a huge possibility to grow organic tea and can benefit from trading. The fact that export earnings from various products grew 23 percent in the first quarter of 2020 in Nepal shows it can even benefit by exporting organic tea to the neighboring trade partner i.e., India.


Physical access and economic access signify the accessibility factor. A significant portion of fruits produced in Jumla, Humla is rejected when brought to the bigger marketplaces due to delays in transportation. Hence, the rotting rate of fruits, at a certain proportion, is accelerating in the market areas like Kathmandu, Pokhara, without being distributed wholly. Apples of Jumla and Humla cannot get the labeling of “organic apples” as packaging systems are not practiced there. The apples which are packaged under foreign-made cartoons fail to get recognition as local fruits. The lack of management in the form of a proper brand has created problems in marketing organic fruits.


Some value chain programs have sought to increase human reliability on food crops and achieve nutritional benefits, often by targeting value chains in agriculture. Practices of household dietary habits, planning, and allocation play important roles in evaluating the usability of foods. Households can ensure the utilization of food only if they can properly process and store food items. Their plates should comprise all the necessary nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc to make out a completely balanced diet. Vegetable suppliers should provide a well-packaged mix of vegetables with expiry dates to fulfill the basic dietary requirements of the population.


Seasonal fluctuation and diseases outbroken often have been changing prices of crops and vegetables. Demand and supply - scarcity of inputs, fertilizers, weather adversity - such uncertainties cause strain in people's ability to remain food secure for certain time limits. Generally, winter vegetables of the plains like cauliflower, tomato can be easily grown in hilly regions during autumn and monsoon. But during the winter, there is a short supply of such vegetables in the plains and the prices tend to be higher over there. However, the vegetables of the main season are priced lower (stated by USAID Nepal report). The basic reason behind this is seasonality, an external factor causing a shift in supply and demand forces of the market. In this COVID phase, the prices of vegetables have risen in places where the consumers’ volume of demand for vegetables is greater. But in areas where people are self-sustaining themselves on farming, the prices have been gradually decreasing. The main vegetable wholesale market in Kalimati provides discounts as consumers have to purchase quantities of vegetables in bulk. However, there is a price monopoly existing among the vegetable retailers in Nepal.

Nutritional Value

From the point of harvest to when it is eaten, the nutritional value of food can differ significantly. With urbanization and growing incomes, people consume higher amounts of readymade foods and increasingly rely on others to grow their cereal crops which they expect to purchase later in the form of processed food items. There has also been a growing scope for preserving essential nutrients and vitamins in food items. However, people need to understand the factors which reduce the quality of food due to the absence of a storage routine, low-quality storage, and loss of essential nutrients while processing. Hence, people need to depend largely on organic vegetables and fruits to suffice their daily diet. 

Food safety

There is a higher potential for food contamination as demand for perishable food rises with accelerating income levels. Because food poisoning can be prevalent by the intake of unhealthy food, there must be a system for food protection to confirm efficient usage of food. A minimum standard of quality has not been maintained to grow the vegetables and crops. The government should ensure the safeguarding of the vegetable supply and ascertain that food is not contaminated at any point during its journey along the supply chain. The facilitation of Agri ambulances has been a safe food supply in some provinces of Nepal.

Future Needs

Since urbanization has reduced the physical distance between smallholders and consumers, some safety measures are to be essentially applied. The Constitution of Nepal 2015 has mentioned sanitation needs but the implementation aspect is not effective. The government of Nepal should implement regulations about the sanitation of hands for packing vegetables that are to be transported to markets. The issue of consumer safety can be addressed through public awareness. Consumers should be aware that vegetables should be in separate packs, not in a mix with fresh or frozen raw foods such as meat products, and seafood. The establishment of warehouses in distant farms and also near vegetable shops can help reduce the wastage of vegetables by pests. The government should also ensure delivery trucks run frequently between farms and shops. If this initiative is taken, then the rotting rate of vegetables might be even reduced by 20-25%. The Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act passed in 2018 talks about the availability of nutritious food to Nepalis and the right of Nepali people to freely pursue the occupation of farmers. However, farmers in deprivation of arable land must be ensured with legal rights. 

(The blogger is a BBA graduate in Marketing from Kathmandu College of Management and a former Marketing Manager for MIC Youths.)


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