Food insecurity looms large in Nepal: Report

May 14th, 2009 - 7:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathamandu, May 14 (Xinhua) About 40 percent of the population in the mountain and hill districts in Nepal are facing a severe food crisis, a government report has said.
The number of people affected stands at 3.35 million, out a total of 8.4 million people living in these areas, said the report released Wednesday by the agriculture and cooperatives ministry.

According to the report, Nepal is running short of 132,916 tonnes of food grains, and this despite the rise in paddy and maize production this year, by 5.2 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, compared to last year.

In 2008-09, the total requirement of food grain across the country was estimated at 5.33 million tonnes, whereas total production was 5.17 million tonnes.

But this year, because of the steep declines in the production of wheat and barley - by 14.5 percent and 17 percent, respectively - the two major winter crops in the hills and mountains, the food shortage has been horrendous, the report said.

The shortage occurred because the past winter was plagued with both a drought and a season of meagre snowfall.

“We have estimated that people living in the far-western region have to live through a food crisis for more than the next seven months, while the people in the mid-western region will have to bear the food crunch for at least six months,” said Hari Dahal, the ministry spokesperson. Those areas are suffering a deficit of about 640,000 tonnes of food.

Dahal said that at least 45 percent of the people in nine districts of the central region, 63 percent of the people living in the western mountain districts and 53 percent of the people living in the mid-western region will suffer through the food crisis.

But even if the government can somehow alleviate the starving people’s problems, the ground reality is such that many Nepalis will continue to struggle just to stay alive: the UN World Food Programme said that an average Nepali has to spend at least 65 percent of its total income on food.

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