Bhawani Bhatta, The Kathmandu Post, 07 May 2018
Wheat production in Kanchanpur, the far-western Tarai district, has increased this year despite the prolonged winter drought during the plantation and growing periods and hailstorm just days before harvest.
The wheat production has increased to 78,061 tonnes this year, largely due to increase in the productivity, the district agriculture office said, adding that the areas under wheat production have also dropped.
The office said that the crop yield rose to 2.51 tonnes per hectare this year resulting in higher production. Wheat was planted on 31,000 hectares in Kanchanpur, down from 31,250 hectares compared to last year. “Production has increased this year despite the drop in crop areas and adverse climate,” said Sagar Dhakal, senior agriculture development officer. Dhakal, however, said there could be shortage of seeds for the next season as hailstorm has affected the wheat just days before harvest.
Agro technicians said that use of improved and drought-resistant seeds also raised production. According to the Agricultural Ministry, about 45 percent of the wheat acreage across the country is now covered by improved variety of seeds. Overall, Nepal’s winter wheat output is expected to hit a three-year high of 1.93 million tonnes this fiscal year, making it the second biggest wheat harvest in the country’s history despite prolonged winter drought, according to preliminary statistics of the Agricultural Ministry.
While the areas under wheat production have dropped, sugarcane acreage has increased in Kanchanpur. Sugarcane production areas increased to 5,400 hectares from 5,250 hectares this year. As two new sugar mills have come into operation in the southern part of the district, it has attracted farmers towards sugarcane farming.
According to Dhakal, sugarcane farming has also witnessed changes as farmers are adopting new technology and using improved varieties of seeds. As new sugar mills fear of low sugarcane production, they have been providing inputs and technical know-how for the cane farmers for a higher yield. “Nowadays, sugarcane farmers are not forced to find the market to sell their crop. Unlike in the past, they don’t have to sell their crop in credit any more,” said Hari Chand Thakuri, Sugarcane Producers Protection Committee, a committee that safeguards the rights of the farmers.
In the past, cane farmers were forced to sell their produce on credit to prevent the crops from drying up in the fields. Although sugarcane has been declared a national crop, the issue of fixing prices has been a matter of concern for the farmers. But proliferation of private mills has helped cane farming. In 2015, the Cabinet had directed the Ministry of Agricultural Development to give sugarcane “national crop” status. No crop had been declared a national crop before. Production of sugar in Nepal currently meets only about 50 percent of domestic demand, with the deficiency being made up with imports from India.