On March 31, the heads of three global agencies warned of a potential worldwide food shortage if countries failed to ensure food security while enacting measures to control the spread of Covid-19. “Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market,” said the joint text signed by the heads of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO). For countries like Nepal, which rely almost entirely on imports for agricultural inputs, the restrictions that many countries, including India, have imposed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic could quickly trigger a food crisis, say experts.
Nepal imported agricultural goods worth more than Rs220 billion last fiscal year. The country imports around 600,000 tonnes of rice, 400,000 tonnes of maize and 100,000 tonnes of wheat. Nepal currently has a food deficit of around 600,000 tonnes, which is primarily met by imports from India. In Nepal’s context, two factors will determine whether there is a food crisis. Monsoon is the obvious first factor. Second is the availability of chemical fertilisers as Nepal is a net importer of this vital farm input.
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