Securing food for remote districts
Pema Lama, a resident of Mugum Karmarong-8 in Mugu, recently had to walk for hours to reach a nearby market as a local depot in his village had its stock of rice exhausted. That was not the end of trouble for Lama, as he had to pay twice the government-fixed price for the rice due to a shortage.
Similar to Pema, individuals in remote districts like Karnali are grappling with a severe shortage of rice. Concerns are growing that rice supplies will be insufficient during the approaching festive season.
Nonetheless, government authorities say they are already taking measures to avert rice shortages during the festivities. Officials from the Food Management and Trading Company (FMTC), a government undertaking, informed that they have already initiated the rice procurement process and are in the process of selecting contractors to transport rice to depots in rural districts.
FMTC said it has initiated the transportation of rice to remote Karnali districts, including Humla, Mugu, Dolpa, Jajarkot, Kalikot, Dailekh, Jumla, and Rukum West, along with Bajura in Sudurpashchim. Notably, it has dispatched 4,000 quintals of rice to Humla. Since the district is yet to be connected with the national road network, the company transported rice to Humla via Tibet, China.
The government has been distributing subsidized rice to rural regions through the company. Madhav Mishra, the head of the company's Karnali provincial office, reassured, "There won’t be a shortage of rice during the festive season. We have already begun transporting rice to these districts.”
Mishra stated that 15,000 quintals of rice are being supplied to various districts. “People in remote areas won’t experience a shortage of rice during this year's festival season. To ensure this, we have already commenced shipping operations. Due to the high demand from remote areas, our rice reserves have been exhausted,” he said, adding. “That is why we have initiated a fresh procurement process.”
Apart from Humla, an additional 15,000 quintals of rice are being transported from Surkhet to different districts, he added. FMTC said depots in rural areas have run out of stock due to factors like price hike in the international market, India's prohibition on rice imports, and delays in the tender process for procurement and transportation.
“We are now in a position to supply rice to all remote depots and sales centers before Dashain,” Mishra said, informing that the process of awarding a contract for the supply of 8,000 quintals of rice to remote areas is in its final stage. Additionally, a new tender for transporting 12,000 quintals of rice has recently been invited, he added. The provincial office of FMTC in Surkhet is responsible for distributing subsidized rice through nine branch offices, seven depots, and 17 sales centers.
Moreover, the Karnali provincial office has kept 10,000 quintals of rice in stock for emergencies. “There are risks of floods and landslides during the rainy season, necessitating swift relief efforts. We will need to provide relief to the people should any untoward incident occur,” Mishra said. According to Mishra, this stock maintained in different depots cannot be sold. “Depots can sell rice only if they receive the new shipment,” he added.
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