My City – How do we get rice on our table?
“Have you eaten rice? The first thing someone would ask if you meet them in the late morning and evening. Rice is the one and only diet that we have enjoyed on our table since birth. Are we aware of how we put these things on our table? Rice is a staple food crop of Nepal, which is planted on 14 lakhs of hectares all around Nepal, producing 55 lakhs of tonnes of food grains. On average, a Nepalese consumes 120 kg of rice per year, which provides 40% of the caloric needs and 23% of the protein needs of the Nepalese diet. Likewise, it is considered to be one of the main commodities of the national economy, which shares 20% of the GDPA and 7% of the national GDP. Due to its social and economic importance, it is seen more as a crop, rather than a harvest product.
The monsoon has just entered the country. With the onset of the monsoon, farmers across the country set their schedules to water their fields for planting paddy (a form of unprocessed rice). The course usually begins with breeding in the nursery, caring for 20-25 days, and then transplanting them to the main field. Besides just cultivating a crop, there is something more important to the cultivation of rice for the Nepalese farming community. A maxim, âMana ropyera, muri falaunebelaâ, may be somewhat archaic but remains true and encouraging for farming communities.
Usually, the monsoon begins in Nepal from June 10 and lasts until September 23, lasting 105 days. During this time, about 80% of the annual precipitation takes place. This year, the monsoon in Nepal started on June 12, just after the onset of the monsoon, farmers start to decorate their fields to make them suitable for growing rice. In hilly areas, fields are filled with farmers with assigned roles during cultivation. Some are assigned as hali; he who handles the ox for plowing. rophar; he who plants rice plants, bause; the one who labels the field, bihade; the one who uproots plants and dokes; the one who carries the uprooted plants. But with mechanization in rice plantations, all these tasks are assumed by the rice farmer, especially in the Terai cultivation model. Culture is often observed as a festival in some communities in the middle and high hills. In the western middle hills, maijharo is made after cultivation of all fields to celebrate the end of cultivation. In addition, the government also declared Asad 15 as National Rice Day.
Cultivation is followed by meticulous care of the seedlings planted. The first comes with water management, which is one of the limiting factors in rice production. The rice mill consumes 4000-5000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of grain. The second is weed management that rivals rice food – sunlight, water, nutrients; which rice needs for its growth and development. It is carried out twice 30 days apart within 60 days of planting. The third is the management of fertilizers, which are the main source of food for the rice plants. Different fertilizers provide different kinds of nutrients to the rice plant, for example, farmyard manure (FYM) provides composite nutrients, but in limited quantities, urea provides nitrogen; which is necessary for the development of the leaves – a part which synthesizes the food for the plant, the Unique Super Phosphate which provides Phosphorus – which aids in the filling and development of the grains.
Final management includes insects and pests. These are the creatures that interfere with the healthy growth of rice plants. They feed on the leaves, stems, grains and roots of rice, which limits the production of grains for human consumption. In some cases, rice plants are infected with the most deadly diseases, killing them completely or reducing their yield. We have a historical example of a famine in Bengal in 1943, where the rice plants were infected with the disease called brown spot, caused by a fungus. The disease had reduced rice yields by 40 to 60 percent in West Bengal, killing 3 million people suffering from starvation and malnutrition. With this rigorous management for 120 days, the rice plant fills with a tassel filled with kernels – a part that holds the rice kernels, and they are harvested.
The overall rice production cost on average is NPR 27,068 per hectare. Generally, a well-managed paddy field can produce 3-7 tonnes of grain per hectare depending on the variety and management practices. Products from commercial farms are purchased by processors at the minimum support price (MSP). It is a price that is declared by the government, before the planting of crops for purchases of crops from the field of farmers. This year, the government declared NPR fine-textured rice MSP. 2,885 per quintals and NPR medium textured rice. 2,735 per quintals. At this price, farmers can sell their rice to the government, and the Nepal Food Corporation reserves the necessary stocks to feed the population.
While it sounds simple enough, the process of putting rice on our table doesn’t end there. It pays for the work of a farmer, the innovation of a scientist, the dedication of an agronomist and the diagnosis of a plant pathologist. With the help of these actors, we the people are able to produce our food in a sustainable way, constantly increasing the productivity of the land and ensuring food security in the country.
The author is currently a graduate student and a young researcher specializing in local varieties of rice at the Department of Agronomy of the University of Tribhuvan.