June 20, 2008

Nine Nepal Districts Face Severe Food Crisis

Text of report by Nepalese eKantipur.com website on 20 June

Kathmandu, 20 June [Thursday]: World Food Programme (WFP) - Nepal said more than 250,000 people in nine districts of the country's mid and far-western regions were facing a precarious food security situation due to significant crop failures locally.

"The food security situation in the mid and far-western regions is very worrying," said an emergency update of WFP-Nepal.

According to the report, more than 250,000 people in Achham, Bajura, Dailekh, Dolpa, Humla, Jajarkot, Kalikot, Mugu and Rukum are facing severe food insecurity, with crops failing by a whopping 20- 70 per cent during the last harvesting season.

"This is the fifth consecutive poor crop yield. Severe drought, hailstone and snowfall have left many communities in the region in a very precarious condition as they enter the three-month lean season," the report added.

"The most critical period is mid-June to August when households will run out of their meagre stocks and become more dependent on the market for their food supply," the report indicated.

Following mounting reports of severe food insecurity in those districts, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, in collaboration with WFP-Nepal, is going to undertake a rapid food security assessment mission in the food-deficit districts.

"As reports are coming in about the shortage of food grain in those districts, we are conducting a two-week-long assessment to take stock of the current situation and prepare future strategies to address the problems of the local people," Agriculture Ministry Spokesperson Dr Hari Dahal said.

Another report of WFP-Nepal shows approximately 2.5m Nepalis are in immediate need of food assistance and 3.9m rural dwellers are at risk of becoming food insecure due to soaring food prices, the World Food Programme (WFP)-Nepal said in a report. The statement added that Nepal faced a serious risk of stagflation - a condition of low economic growth, high employment and rising prices.

"Amid worsening food shortages and soaring food prices, about 19.2m rural people may lose while 3.8m may gain from the current situation in the country," the preliminary findings of a market and price impact assessment prepared by WFP-Nepal said.

According to the report, the highest increase in nominal prices during the past six months was observed in cooking oil (up 30 per cent) and rice (up 23 per cent). Traders expect the price of rice to increase further by 11 per cent in the near future.

"However, the price of cooking oil will stabilize in the next few months," the report added.

"The global impact of food prices, fuel cost increases and the Indian ban on food exports play a role in determining the price of food. The average cost of transportation has also increased by 27 per cent," the report added.

Daily wages increased by 7-15 per cent during the six-month period, with the greatest rise being recorded in the Terai [southern plains].

"Due to the skyrocketing price of commodities, consumer behaviour has changed, with people buying smaller amounts and cheaper items," said the report.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the world price of rice has increased by 74 per cent, while the price of wheat has more than doubled between March 2007 and March 2008.

Originally published by eKantipur.com website, Kathmandu, in English 20 Jun 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring South Asia. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.