Import of maize has increased by almost five times in a year, the data revealed.
"The import of maize in the fiscal year 2009-10 stood at 1,32,213 metric tonne from 32,861 metric tonne a year ago," said spokesperson of Agriculture and Cooperatives ministry Dr Hari Dahal.
Similarly, the maize seed import has more than doubled in a year. "In the fiscal year 2008-09, some 458 metric tonne seeds of maize was imported but in the fiscal year 2009-10, the import went up to 9,778 metric tonne," he said, adding that Nepal is still ranked at the 23rd position among the maize producing nations list.
Maize is not only the second staple food, but also the second crops among domestic production. It occupies 26 per cent in the total food grain consumed in the country. "In the last one decade, maize production has increased by 28 per cent, and its productivity has increased by 20 per cent," according to the ministry that has started the fourth phase of Hill Maize Research Project that will run for four year from this August.
"Of the total project cost of Rs 5.65 million, Rs 2 million will be supported by the USAID and remaing by the Swiss Agency for Deveopment and Cooperation," Dahal informed.
Some 3,500 poor and marginalised families of the 20 high hill districts will benefit from the project, he said, adding that apart from government agencies the private sector will also be included in the project.
After the first phase (1999-2002), second phase (2003-2007) and third phase (2008-2010), the project will help increase maize yield that is among the lowest in Nepal.
The maize yield in Nepal stands at 2,361 kg -- according to the ministry data -- that is lesser than 2,647 kg of India and 5,535 kg of China.
The low yield is attributed to low seed replacement rate -- that is only six per cent -- coupled with soil, irrigation and timely fertilisers.
Nepal has 17,500 metric tonne demand in Nepal but the production is 1,076 metric tonne only.
Though, Nepal is an agrerian economy, it could not become government's priority after 1990. Till seventh five-year plan, agriculture was the first priority of the government and donors but after eighth five-year plan, the priority has shifted.
The government has earmarked Rs 10.52 billion -- for the total agriculture sector in the budget for the current fiscal year -- that is only 2.5 per cent of the total national budget.
Among all the ministries, Agriculture Ministry comes at the eighth position in the ranking of budget volumn, Dahal informed.