NEPAL – The Nepalese government have followed many other governments around the world in putting a ban on the export of grains from the country, a government official said Thursday.
Rice prices have risen 35% in recent weeks. A 30 kilo bag of rice now costs NRs 1,500, up from NRs 1,100 some weeks ago, government officials said.
Around 31% of Nepalis live on less than NRs 60 (US$1) per day and are expected to be hit hard by the global rises in the price of basic foodstuffs like rice.
Analysts say global grain prices are on the rise for a variety of reasons, though many point to the increasing amounts of agricultural land given over to grain production for biofuels. This further squeezes the grain price worldwide, experts say.
Biofuels were the brain-child of US President George W Bush and were promoted by him as a good way of reducing carbon emissions and it appears making people hungry.
Various droughts and climatic changes have also compounded the problem.
Nepal is following many governments in the South Asia region, many of whom have also put a ban or heavy taxes on grain exports.
Most exports are usually to Tibet, Bangladesh and India.
The high population growth in Nepal, combined with low production due to last year’s extensive flooding – thought to be partially a result of climate change – mean that grain supplies are very tight, despite the widespread agricultural nature of the Nepalese economy.
Officials say the country has a 17,000 metric ton food deficit.
Due to the decade-long insurgency by Maoist rebels, many agricultural projects have fallen by the wayside and analysts say Nepal needs to introduce more effective farming methods in some areas, particularly rice production.
As some Nepali farmers have already shown, rice bushes, grown in drier fields and one-metre apart can yield 100% increases in the crop.
According to government statistics, Nepal produced some 7.9 million metric tonnes of cereals in the last fiscal year. Nepal produces many different crops, though rice, maize, wheat and barley are the main ones.