Nepal IRRI 5 yr rice agreement
Photo: IRRI
KATHMANDU, NEPAL — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the government of Nepal, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Management, and Cooperatives (MoALMC) signed a five-year collaborative work plan to reinvigorate Nepal’s rice sector and help achieve food and nutrition security.

The five-year work plan, signed by  Yubak Dhoj G.C., secretary of MoALMC, and by Matthew Morell, director general of IRRI, outlines projects specifically designed to increase grain yield, build technical skills and capabilities, and promote a more market-driven seed system for climate resilient rice varieties as a means to reduce Nepal’s rice imports.

“This work plan is fully aligned with Nepal government plans as we strive to double the rice productivity in next five years,” said Honourable Minister for MoALMC Chakrapani Khanal, chief guest of the event. “The themes and integrated projects set out in the work plan will directly contribute to achieving the targets set out by Nepal. Increased rice production means that the country no longer has to depend on imports, as it is consuming a significant portion of our national budget that could be allocated to other priority objectives.”

According to the IRRI, rice is Nepal’s most important staple food crop and agricultural product, providing 53% of cereal consumption and 30% of protein intake for 30 million Nepalese. It also contributes to 21% of the country’s Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (AGDP) and 7% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and rural employment.

However, extreme climatic conditions and underutilization of rice science technologies and innovations have caused the country to become dependent on rice import. Based on the country’s recent macroeconomic report, Nepal’s import of rice has increased by more than 40% in the first trimester of fiscal year 2017-18, adversely affecting the country’s development budget, the IRRI noted.

“We believe there is a significant opportunity to work with the Nepalese government to improve the efficiency of the national rice sector and achieve their goal of increased productivity,” Morell said. “We are pleased to be able to leverage our strong portfolio of rice varietal research, agriculture innovations, and farming best practices to strengthen Nepal’s capacity to increase productivity and ultimately reach rice self-sufficiency.”

Set out in the work plan are strategies to: enhance the profitability of smallholder farms, with better and healthier rice varieties; promote rice production management for improved yield and climate resilience; scale appropriate, gender-friendly mechanization and post-harvest technologies in rice-based agri-food systems; reinforce product development, branding, and value chain development; strengthen capacity; and improve national rice policy environment and rice value chains.

“We are glad to be increasing our collaboration with IRRI,” Dhoj said. “We are confident that this fruitful partnership will help maximize our capacity to make full use of rice science technologies and innovations, leading the country to rice self-sufficiency. With IRRI being internationally recognized for excellence in rice science, Nepal foresees an opportunity of working together in this direction.”