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Maize scientists commit to raising productivity

  Working to raise production at global average level in next couple of years


KATHMANDU: Nepali maize scientists and experts from International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) have committed to increase maize production in Nepal for greater food security.

Hill Maize Research Project has been organising a strategy workshop on January 7-10 to explore high yielding and climate resistance verities for the country. Scientists are brainstorming to increase maize productivity at global average level in the next couple of years‚ said coordinator at Hill Maize Research Project Dr K B Koirala.

“We will analyse different maize verities developed in the country and other countries with same topography‚ and promote them‚” he said‚ adding that increasing maize production at global average will help ensure food security in the country.

Currently‚ maize — the second preferred cereal crop after rice — production in the country stands about 2.5 metric tonnes (MT) per hector. Maize production has increased by 0.7 MT per hector since 1999. However‚ the global average is about four MT per hector. According to Department of Agriculture‚ maize constitute 28 per cent share in cereal crops consumed in the country.

Nepal needs to build efficient seed banks‚ distribution channels and raise awareness at the farmers’ level to achieve the target‚ said director at Global maize Programme of CIMMYT Dr BM Prasanna. “Scientists and their organisations must reach to farmers and aware them of benefits of improved verities of maize to increase production‚” he said.

About 2.1 million MT maize was produced in the fiscal year 2010-11 from about 871‚387 hector of land. According to the topography of the country‚ maize cultivation is centered in mid hill covering 69 per cent of cultivation land followed by mountain (11 per cent) and Terai— southern plain— (20 per cent).

The low productivity of maize was due to lack of improved seeds. The government has been providing about 3‚138 MT of improved seeds while the demand is 17‚000 MT in a year. “Above 89 per cent of the maize seeds are supplied from informal sector‚ therefore‚ we needed to improve the channel‚” said chief of Crop Development Directorate Dr Suraj Pokhrel. “We are promoting cooperatives‚ and small and medium scale enterprises to fill the vacuum‚” he said‚ adding that Public Private Partnership (PPP) model will be the best model for it.

Executive Director of Nepal Agriculture Research Council Dr Dil Bahadur Gurung said that production and market oriented research is a must to increase maize productivity and its commercialisation. “We also have to give emphasis on climate change and its affect‚” he said.

Head of Cooperation division of the Swiss Development Cooperation Jean Francois Cuenod opined that research should be farmer friendly and pragmatic. “New innovation should not put farmer at risk‚” he said‚ adding that every research needs review in farmer points of view.

Global maize production has come down to 53 million MT in 2012 from earlier projection of 917 million MT due to drought in the US that has 13 per cent of the total global production. However‚ China has added eight million MT more maize last year.

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