The present trends of demand and supply of rice, in general, revealed that it would be difficult to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production in Nepal at least until the year 2050 under the current rice productivity growth and population growth rate. The improved adoption of technologies and management practices by rice farmers and an enabling environment might encourage farmers to invest more in the future to increase productivity and improve efficiency in milling and marketing.
Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is critical to food and nutrition security (67% of total cereal consumption and 23% of protein intake), employment, and income for farmers in addition to its contribution to the economy in Nepal. It contributes about 20% to Agricultural Gross Domestic Product and 7% to Gross Domestic Product being planted in 1.49 million ha with average productivity of 3.76 mt/ha in 2019.
With improved road infrastructure, urbanization, and higher income mostly due to remittance, more people in the hilly and mountainous regions of Nepal have switched to rice-based diets, thus creating demand for branded fine, aromatic, and long-grain rice. The demand for most of this rice in the market is supplied from India, despite its higher market price.
Insufficient production to meet the demand for fine-quality rice is also contributing to the galloping rice import. A recent study revealed that coarse and medium rice varieties cover nearly 76% of the total milled rice and the share of medium fine and fine rice varieties were 17% and 7%, respectively.
However, the study did not notice even a single case of long and extra-long slender rice varieties being milled in the surveyed area.
Domestic production of rice is not sufficient to meet its growing demand. Therefore, rice import in the country is increasing. In order to achieve rice self-sufficiency, aggregate production needs to be increased.
To promote national food security, gaining self-sufficiency in rice production is indispensable. Studies have estimated the demand for rice in Nepal by 2035 but did not include some of the dynamic variables in rice production such as changes in the intervention of improved technology and the likely adverse effects of climate change over a longer period of time.
Moreover, many past studies lacked both short and long-term strategies and action plans to achieve rice self-sufficiency in the country by developing technology-intensive mission programs in different agro-ecologies, production environments, and farming systems.
Rice yield or productivity is a complex phenomenon as it depends on the interaction between genotype (variety), environment, and management. Rice production environments in Nepal are predominantly rainfed, diverse, complex, and stress-prone, where yield fluctuation is common. Available improved technologies, crop management practices and input supply such as access to chemical fertilizer are uncertain and the exposure to climate change (e.g.
drought, floods), the natural disasters and market price fluctuation are frequent.
Despite these in the budget speech of FY 2021/2022 (section 108, the Government of Nepal) ambitiously aimed to be self-sufficient in rice production in the next five years. Hence, the objective of this study was to analyze different static and dynamic scenarios of rice production, supply and demand for the next 10, 20, and 30 years considering the challenges and opportunities in the rice-based production systems of Nepal.
The analysis will provide insights about the likely status of self-sufficiency and offer actions and evidence-based solutions for increasing productivity to meet increasing future rice demands in the context of increasing population and income and high vulnerability to climate change. The study tried to answer the following research questions:
● What is the current status of rice productivity and yield gaps in different rice production environments in Nepal?
● Can Nepal produce enough rice to meet future demand at the current growth rate of rice yield and population (business as usual scenario)?
● What will be the likely situation of rice self-sufficiency in the future under the negative effect of climate change?
● What are the major drivers of domestic demand and import growth of rice in Nepal?
● What will be the level of rice productivity needed to meet self-sufficiency in rice to meet increasing demand by 2030 and 2050?
Rice is the most important food crop for ensuring food and nutritional security in Nepal. Despite its importance and improvement in yield over time, the current rice yield level is low with high yield gaps. The country is importing rice in an increasing trend which is mainly influenced by increased per capita income, insufficient domestic production in comparison to the population growth, and preference for fine rice.
The present trends of demand and supply of rice, in general, revealed that it would be difficult to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production in Nepal at least until the year 2050 under the current rice productivity growth of 1.47% and population growth rate of 1.3% per annum.
The future situations might be aggravated more in case of adverse impacts of climate change scenarios. There could be resilience in demand and improved self-sufficiency in rice through the adoption of improved technologies and intensification of rice farming such as improved high-yielding inbred and hybrid rice varieties, and other climate-resilient technologies and increased area coverage towards spring irrigated rice, good agronomical practices, mechanization, efficiency in milling recovery, reducing post-harvest losses, and the implementation of minimum support price for food storage, transportation, and public distribution system jointly by provincial and federal governments.
This improved adoption of technologies and management practices by farmers and an enabling environment, created by the public sector might encourage the rice farmers to invest more in the future to increase productivity and improve efficiency in milling and marketing. The prerequisite to working towards putting in place a self-sufficient rice system in Nepal is to develop a critical mass of rice scientists trained in advanced technologies, upgrade research infrastructures, and transform agricultural extension to cater to the emerging needs of the
beneficiaries of the rice system.
This will require a significant increase in the investment in agriculture research and development, irrigation and market infrastructures, input supply, value chain development, and better linkage among research, and the extension and education system.
Policies and institutional support services for input and output markets targeting sustainable intensification of rice farming across different production environments are equally important.
Read the study:
Timsina KP, D Gauchan, S Gairhe, SR Subedi, BB Pokhrel, S Upadhyay, KD Joshi, S Pandey, and J Shrestha. (2023) Rice demand and production projections for 2050: Opportunities for achieving self-sufficiency in Nepal. Nepal Agriculture Research Journal 15(1): 163-180.