Late, weak monsoon threatens drop in paddy output

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KATHMANDU, JUN 16 – The slow advancement of monsoon that hit the country on Saturday after a delay of three days is likely to affect paddy plantation as thousands of farmers depend on rains to cultivate the major summer crop.

Due to the formation of a strong cyclone–Ashobaa–over the Arabian Sea in the first week of June, the movement of the southeasterly winds responsible for monsoon rains in Nepal has been delayed, causing a week onset and in only a few eastern hill districts, the Meteorological Forecasting Division (MFD) said on Monday.

“A weak monsoon entered from some parts of the eastern region on June 13. And even two days after the onset, the distribution and intensity of rainfall is found insufficient,” said Subash Rimal, a meteorologist at the MFD.

Barring the few eastern hilly districts and some places in western Nepal, weather remained dry on Monday. “Clouds are expected to progressively advance westward and to the Centre and finally cover the whole country by the end of this week,” said Rimal.

Normally, the four-month monsoon that accounts for almost 80 percent of total annual rainfall in the country begins on June 10 and stays until September 23.

Delayed and weak monsoon is the biggest challenge for farmers, especially those in the Tarai districts that depend highly on rain-fed agriculture due to poor irrigation facilities. “Early rains are crucial for preparing paddy nurseries and for the growth of maize plants, the third staple crop after paddy and wheat in the country,” said Shankar Sapkota, co-spokesman for the Ministry of Agricultural Development.

Paddy contributes to 52 percent of the total cereal production in the country. It is the largest contributor from the agriculture sector to the country’s gross domestic product.

Normally in mid-hill and mountain districts, the time for preparing rice seedbeds is already over. The seedlings are then transplanted to larger areas of paddy fields when the rain is ample. In Tarai–the country’s food basket–the paddy sowing period starts in early June and stretches until early July, depending on rain, before transplantation begins.

“Even a day’s delay in sowing the seeds lowers paddy yield significantly,” said Sapkota. “Soil moisture from brief to moderate rains in the next few days will be crucial for the paddy crop.”

Weathermen have forecast deficient rainfall this season in Nepal, along with the South Asian neighbours including India and Bangladesh.

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