Arjun Shah, The Kathmandu Post, September 24, 2021
While Food Management and Trading Company Limited has stopped selling subsidised rice, food prices in the local market have skyrocketed due to transport disruption.
Several villages in Bajura are staring at shortages of food grains especially rice ahead of major festivals as the branch office of Food Management and Trading Company Limited in Martadi and the company’s depot in Kolti have stopped selling subsidised rice.
The food depot in Kolti stopped the sale of subsidised rice a month ago while the Martadi branch office has also recently closed its depot citing shortages of food grains.
A majority of households in the Martadi area rely on the branch office for their monthly ration while people from four local units—Swamikartik Khapar, Jagannath, Himali and Budhiganga—which are often affected by food shortages get their rice supplies from the Kolti depot.
According to Mekharaj Ojha, the chief at Martadi branch of the company, there are only 65 quintals of rice in Martadi and Kolti depots.
“The current stock is barely enough for inmates of the district prison in Bajura,” he Ojha.
The local residents have complained that they have been buying rice from the local market at a high price due to the closure of the subsidised food depots.
“Mota rice whose subsidised rate was Rs48 per kilogram costs us Rs70 in the local market,” said Janesh Bhandari, a local man from Kolti.
Chief District Officer Gopal Kumar Adhikari said his office has already sent a letter to the central office of Food Management and Trading Company Limited and apprised of the situation.
“Many families cannot afford to buy rice at the market price. They are the ones who have been heavily affected by the food shortages,” Adhikari said.
According to Ojha, chief at Martadi branch, the company has fixed quotas of 7,000 quintals of rice for Kolti and 6,000 quintals of rice for Martadi in the current fiscal year.
“However, the tender process for the transportation of rice has not been completed yet. That’s why we haven’t been able to fix the date for the transportation of rice,” Ojha said.
Food shortages in Bajura have also been exacerbated as Martadi, the district headquarters, has been disconnected from the national road network due to floods and landslides for the last three months. Prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed due to transport disruption.
“It is highly unlikely that the road network will be repaired any time soon. The authorities must look into alternatives like air transport of food and other essentials to the remote areas,” said Agniraj Shahi, a member of the civil society.
Bajura ranks high among districts with high food insecurity in Sudurpaschim Province. Every year, the district faces a shortage of 11,000 metric tonnes of food grains, according to the Agriculture Knowledge Centre.
“In total, Bajura has 9.21 percent of arable land with only 1.42 percent land with irrigation facilities. The total agriculture production of the district only lasts for three months,” said Min Prasad Jaisi, an official at the centre. “People in the district buy food items in the local market or rely on the subsidised food from the Food Management and Trading Company Limited to meet their daily needs.”