The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in a survey of food security in Nepal has said that although there is sufficient stock to last till the monsoon, it predicts significant reductions in the harvest of wheat and other winter crops.
It says food stocks in the markets are sufficient for three months, and the Nepal Food Management and Trading Company (FMTC) has nearly 24,000 metric tonnes of food stocks with procurement of a further 10,000 MT planned.
Although healthy winter rains favoured the wheat crop, the nationwide lockdown at harvest time that has now lasted a month with indications of extension beyond 27 April, and the absence of farmhands, could reduce harvests.
If the lockdown continues, it could also affect the paddy planting season with serious implications for food security in 2020. India has halted rice exports, and new export contracts with Nepali traders stopped early this month. India is also under lockdown, and farmers there also face problems harvesting winter crops, fruits, vegetables and other crops.
“The COVID-19 induced national lock-down and slowdowns in all major sectors of the economy is expected to affect Nepal’s most vulnerable and food insecure populations,” WFP said in a statement on Sunday. “Massive slowdowns in the tourism, service and manufacturing sectors have resulted in widespread work stoppages and layoffs.”
Although food markets remain open, food prices have gone up- with vegetables costing twice as much as before the lockdown. Dairy and poultry products are also facing problems with delivery to market and distribution, and there are reports of spoilage of products.
WFP says: ‘While market supplies are sufficient overall for the time being, if this situation were to continue beyond a month, a subsequent depletion of cereal and pulses stock, especially in remote markets, could push staple prices even higher in the absence of decisive government intervention.’