Mountain districts face shortage of riceThe shortage is caused by delay in the transportation of grains by the contractors, officials say.
Food depots in the mountainous districts of Mugu and Jumla are running short on rice grains. Locals said the shortage has continued for the last two months.
Jaimati Lavad, a resident of Chayanatha Rara Municipality-13 in Mugu, said that while the grains they harvest from their fields do not even last for six months, local traders charge an exorbitant price for the staple food.
“We have to take loans to buy rice and that also does not seem to be an option right now,” Lavad said.
Warehouses run by the Food Management and Trading Company Limited have 325 quintals of rice in stock in Jumla and 700 quintals in Mugu, officials said. But the stock is for emergency use only and not for sale, they said.
This has forced the locals to buy rice from local traders at an exorbitant price. Harak Singh Budha, a resident of Soru Rural Municipality-7 in Mugu, said he had to pay Rs 2,200 for 25 kg of rice at the local trader’s. “I could buy the same amount of rice at Rs 1,500 from the depot,” he said.
Officials at the company said shortage of rice in the two districts was caused by a delay in the transportation of rice grains by the contractors.
Pushkar Bham, information officer at the company, said that the contractor transported only 8,000 quintals of rice to Gamgadhi in the last fiscal year, in contrast to a demand for 11,000 quintals. “Even Gamgadhi has only 700 quintals of rice in the warehouse for emergency situations,” he said.
Ratapani and Kalai food depots in Mugu have also remained closed for a long time. Kamal Shahi, a local of Jima village in Soru Rural Municipality-6, said the shortage of rice has led to difficulties in their daily lives. “We don’t even have rice grains to be used for religious purposes,” Shahi said.
Kalai, which has around 400 households, suffers from food insecurity. The local food production—mainly wheat, maize and millet—hardly lasts six months, say locals.
In Mugu, the Food Management and Trading Company Limited has allocated 11,000 quintals of subsidised rice to Gamgadi, 1,000 quintals each to Soru, Shreekot and Pulu depots of Mugumkarmarong Rural Municipality for this fiscal year.
Tsering Cyapne Lama, chair of Mugum Karmarong Rural Municipality, said that the villagers are facing major food issues because of the shortage of rice at the depot. The residents of Soru, Khatyad and Mugum Karmarong have not been able to get rice grains for even birth and death rituals as there is no rice in the local depot, he said.
At Sarkegad and Shreenagar depot in the neighbouring district of Humla, contractors have been selling rice by themselves as there are no employees. “There are no employees at the depot, and contractors sell government rice at hiked prices,” said Lama.
According to Nirmal Bista, head of the Jumla branch of the Food Management and Trading Company Limited, there are only 325 quintals of medium rice in Jumla. Similarly, 100 quintals of Basmati rice are kept for emergency situations. The quota of rice for Jumla has been set at 6,000 quintals for this fiscal year. Out of which, 1,300 quintals are sent to depots in Dolpa.
“Every February, we ask for more rice. This time, the government increased the quota by 2,500 quintals of rice. But the contractor has not delivered the shipment yet,” said Bista.
According to the company, 40 to 50 customers come to the depots daily to buy rice. But all of them return empty-handed. “We don’t have enough rice to sell. We are waiting for the additional 2,500 quintals to arrive,” Bista said.
Khadka Construction Services has the contract to transport rice to the mountainous districts this year.
Mugu faces food shortages almost every year, as the designated contractors do not transport rice on time. The Nagma-Gamgadhi road, which connects Mugu with the national road networks, is often blocked by snowfall in December, January and February, and during the monsoon season disrupting the transportation of essential goods to the district.
The Karnali region sees a lot of discrepancies in the supply, management and sale of rice. In October 2020, police seized a truck carrying 250 kgs of subsidised rice at Subbakuna Check Post in Surkhet. The consignment meant for Mugu was headed to Bhaktapur in Bagmati Province.
Subsidised rice is transported to various districts of Karnali from Surkhet, Nepalgunj, Dang and Dhangadhi through air and land. Some contractors even transport rice to Karnali from Bajura and Bajhang districts of Sudurpaschim Province.