Monday, December 10, 2018

IRRI advises Nepalese farmers’ cooperative on upgrading their rice value chain to improve profits from rice farming


Collective action is becoming increasingly popular for effective planning and successful implementation of development work. Farmers’ cooperatives are meant for collective action and effective farmer engagement in agricultural activities aimed at increasing crop yield and profit from farming.

The Budhan Farmers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperative, situated in Barabardiya Municipality Ward Number 5, in the Bardiya District, organized a one-day interaction program on 2 November 2018 with farmers, experts, scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), as well as Nepalese government officials and authorities from federal, provincial, and local governments.

The program was to discuss the Cooperative’s role in production, processing and branding of fine, long slender rice varieties in the community. Nepal is importing large quantity of rice and majority of the import is made up of premium quality rice. To revert this situation, efforts by farmers and their Cooperatives, government authorities, NARC and IRRI are vital. For this, scaling up of good practices, learnings needs to be scaled up contributing towards rice self-sufficiency. Mr. Nabaraj Subedi, the Cooperative Chair, praised the support received from IRRI, NARC, and the local government. He lauded IRRI for introducing location-specific and stress-tolerant (both drought and flood) rice varieties including Sawa Mahsuri Sub1 that doubled rice production in the region, and NARC for making available breeder seeds to produce foundation seeds.

Dr. Yubak Dhoj G.C., Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), pointed out that migration, land fragmentation, small landholding, and lack of technologies are constraints of agricultural growth at present in Nepal. He emphasized the need of new technologies and practices along with new varieties to replace old traditional varieties. He further emphasized the need of mechanization in the field and branding of product. The chief guest, Mr. Chakrapani Khanal, Honorable Minister of MoALD, shared the Nepal government’s plan to support cooperatives in Rajapur, Bardiya. Mr. Khanal requested cooperatives to follow business-oriented production systems and to make the system labor and cost efficient. Other speakers in the program included the Department of Agriculture Director General Dr. Surya Prasad Poudel; Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS) Chief Mr. Govinda KC; Nepalese Parliament member Ms. Bimala BK;  Province 6 People’s Representative Mr. Himal Sharma, and Mayor of Barabardiya Municipality Mr. Durga Bahadur Tharu.

Dr. Krishna Dev Joshi, the Nepal Representative for IRRI, gave recommendations on how farmers can become producers, processors, and market actors and how they can retain maximum of profits within the community. He also highlighted the significance of promoting fine, long grain, and aromatic varieties by cooperatives in the country mainly by doubling the rice yields and reducing the cost of rice production at least by one third of the current cost of production. This can be achieved by reducing yield gap with the use of best rice varieties and best management practices which will help reduce rice import, eventually making the country self-sufficient.

Citing successful examples from Bangladesh, Vietnam, India and Australia, Dr. Joshi urged for investing in advanced technologies and innovations. He highlighted the yield gap (8 metric tons in research stations versus 3.5 metric tons in farmers’ field) and the need for a close collaboration of research, extension, academic institutions and business community including farmers cooperatives in order to reduce yield gap and make agriculture more competitive and rewarding.

The Budhan Farmers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperative has an annual transaction of over 200 metric tons seed of high yielding rice, wheat, and maize varieties produced in 150 hectares of land.  The cooperative has benefited over 135,000 families in 24 villages in Bardiya and neighboring districts over the last 20 years, which is worth over 120 million USD (12 Billion NPR). The demand for seed is further increasing with the growing popularity of the cooperative, which is leading to an ambitious plan of expanding seed production in 250 hectares and reaching out to thousands of other farmers nationwide. Cooperative is to install a Rice Miller to produce fine and aromatic rice varieties in their own brand.

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