Rice import goes up despite record paddy yield

By Laxman Kafle, Kathmandu, May. 24: Import of rice has increased significantly this fiscal year even though the paddy production has been recorded at its highest.

The country imported rice worth Rs. 25.47 billion during the first nine months of the current fiscal year, which is 18.1 per cent higher than the same period last year, according to a statistic of the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB).

Rice worth Rs. 21.56 billion was imported during the first nine months of the last fiscal year.

Import of rice is growing for the last couple of years. The country imported rice worth Rs. 23.6 million in the fiscal year 2016/17 and Rs. 28.9 billion in the fiscal year 2017/18, the report said.

According to Tej Bahadur Subdei, spokesman at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, growing demand of rice with the increasing population and rice eating habit contributed to increasing the import of rice over the years.

“The demand of rice has increased following the growing purchasing power of the people even in the rural areas. The people in the rural areas tend to consume rice by selling their products like maize, barley and wheat,” Subedi told The Rising Nepal.

Obviously, production of paddy is not adequate to meet the growing demand of rice as around 400,000 mouths are added in Nepal every year.

The production of paddy has been increasing and it has set the highest production record at 5,610,000 tonnes paddy this year, he said, adding, "However, the import of rice has increased, which showed that our production does not meet the demand."

Increased price of rice also contributed to the increase in the import in terms of money, he said.

According to rice expert Bholaman Singh Basent, rice eating habit of the people led to the increase in its import year by year even though the paddy production has gone up.

"The rich people use to eat imported masino or fine variety of rice paying higher prices which has also contributed to the increase of rice import from India. Most of the imported rice is masino whose cost is comparatively high compared to local mota (coarse) variety of rice," he said.

He said that the rising import of masino rice showed that the country should pay due attention to produce different varieties of masino rice to substitute import of its variety.

"It is an irony for the country recognised as a rice exporter country until 1980s is now a importer of it. In that time, we have 6/7 rice exporter companies in Terai to export rice. But now, billions of rupees was spent to consume rice," he said.

"It is necessary to focus on early paddy plantation in the Terai and other potentials areas to increase production and reduce the import. In Terai, there is a huge possibility for early paddy production and its productive is comparatively 20 per cent higher compared to asare dhan," he said.

Currently, we are planting early paddy in only 120,000 hectare land out of total paddy land of 1,500,000 hectares of paddy field across the country.

Out of total 561,000 tons of paddy production, the share of early paddy stood at only 500,000 tons which is very low based on possibility of the production of early paddy Terai cover 70 per cent rice production.

"If we focus on early paddy production in Terai and make irrigation facility available and support for drying machine, the import of rice can be reduced significantly," he said.

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