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Nepal: High Food Prices Makes Life Painful

Food prices have been on the rise in the Himalayan nation – one of the poorest countries in the world – where nearly a quarter of the 26 million population live below the national poverty line.

KATHMANDU - Every day as dawn breaks, 51-year-old Ram Bahadur Nepali carries his sewing machine to a nearby open space, settles on a wooden chair and waits for customers to earn his daily living.

On a good-day, Ram Bahadur earns about Rs400 (nearly US$5) – double what he would typically earn every day sewing torn shirts, pants and bags.
He laments that his income is not enough for survival and lately skyrocketing food prices are making his difficult condition worse.

“The meager amount that I earn is in no way enough to make my ends meet,” said the father of seven. “The food prices have touched the roof while my income has remained the same.”

He further said that his wife and two elder daughters work in neighborhood doing dishes, washing clothes and cleaning the houses to put food on the plates for the whole family.

Food prices have been on the rise in the Himalayan nation – one of the poorest countries in the world – where nearly a quarter of the 26 million population live below the national poverty line.

The poorest – who spend up to 80 percent of their income on food – are hardest hit.

The country’s central bank said year-on-year inflation in August 2012 stayed at a three-year high of 11.9 percent, while the price index of food and beverage increased by 12.2 percent compared to an increase of 9.9 percent over the same period last year.

Poor monsoon rains this year may mean a drop in summer crop production by around 10 percent, possibly triggering further food shocks in the coming months.

“Our days of hardships are far from over. I have been trying to live and adjust my life with what I have but it is getting increasingly difficult and challenging each passing day,” said Bahadur.

A House Wife's Frustration

At one of the busiest markets in Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu, Sudha Ghimire bargains over a packet of dried potatoes. She is shocked to find out that all the prices of food items have skyrocketed within a matter of weeks.

“Just a couple of weeks ago I paid Rs.40 for a packet of dried potatoes. Today the shopkeeper said it is Rs.80,” said the 31-year-old housewife. “Food prices have reached a peak and it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage household expenses.”

“I am spending nearly 60 to 70 percent of the family income just on food. In previous years it had remained below 50 percent,” said Sudha, who is from a middle-class family in a nation where the average annual income is around US$740.

She further said that she is now struggling to pay school fees for her two children as well as other expenses because she is spending too much on food.

“It is a dismal situation and I feel helpless,” she said in frustration.