As Nepalis prepare for the annual rice planting day on 29 June by wading into flooded paddy fields, it is a time to remind ourselves that the country is more dependent on the import of this staple than ever before.
As incomes rise, Nepalis are switching to branded fine, aromatic and long grain rice, and abandoning traditional nutrient-dense food like maize, millet, buckwheat. The share of rice in total cereal consumption has gone up to 67%. Still, rice contributes 40% of the energy and 23% of protein in a Nepali’s daily diet.
The rise of rice in Nepal, Krishna Dev Joshi and Santosh Upadhyay
Work for food, Anil Chitrakar
Rice is by far the most important crop of Nepal, the primary source of livelihood and income for more than two-thirds of farm households, contributing more than 7% to the total GDP.
But half of Nepal’s rice-growing farmers harvest just enough paddy for their own needs, and do not sell it in the market. Low agricultural surplus is the key reason for Nepal’s growing food imports since 1990.