KATHMANDU, August 30: Nepal imported rice worth Rs 50.48 billion in the last fiscal year, which was 51.4 percent more than the expense made on the import of the same agricultural product in the previous year.
The ‘Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation of Nepal’ released by the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) shows that import expense on rice jumped by a whopping around Rs 17 billion during the fiscal year 2020/21. This amounts to 3.3 percent of the total import expenses of Rs 1.53 trillion.
The government has been reiterating to make the country self-reliant in a number of agricultural products, including the staple food. However, the import of the main staple food has been increasing by a notable amount every year.
The NRB records show that Nepal imported rice of Rs 32.21 billion in the fiscal year 2018/19, an increase from Rs 28.90 billion in 2017/18. Nepal imports rice mainly from India, Japan, China and Thailand.
According to agriculture experts, Nepal has seen decreased paddy harvest year-on-year due to reduction in rice fields. The country has lost an estimated 100,000 hectares of paddy land in the last one decade alone, while the average productivity also stands at mere 3.8 tons per hectare. Rapid and unplanned urbanization is encroaching paddy fields.
In addition to this, farmers face erratic production volume caused by a number of issues that include a delayed monsoon, shortage of fertilizer and fake seeds and armyworm invasion. Similarly, many people switching to Basmati rice from locally produced rice with an improvement in living standards has also been helping to drain out large amounts of money every year to import rice.