Rice stock at Dunai depot of Nepal Food Corporation. Photo: Bishnu Prasad Devkota/Republica
Free competition among local businesspersons have brought down the price
DOLPA, Jan 24: Ujeli BK spent a lot of time running after local politicians for petty favors. Without their ‘grace’ she could hardly manage to purchase rice.
“There would always be scarcity of rice and without the help of politicians it was not possible to purchase rice,” she recounts.
BK, a local of Thulebheri village, thinks those difficult days are over now. There are many depots in the villages and they are now filled with rice sacks. Neither the rates are very high, nor is the quality poor as before.
“Rice was always our biggest issue before. We had to reach to the town leaving our household works aside for days. The route was not risk free either. We have seen very hard days,” she reminisces. “We had to stay in the queue for long hours and there was no guarantee that we would finally get rice.”
Dolpa villages are considered among the most remote areas of the country. Due to the lack of road network, even government food depots would not be able to avail food on time. According to BK, she would consider herself very lucky if she could take home 10 kg of rice after staying in the queue for a week.
Another local of the village Aaiturupa Rokaya has also faced the same problem. Now, people in Dolpa need not worry about food anymore, she states.
All this is because of expansion of road network in Dolpa. Unlike earlier, roads have reached remote villages resulting in thriving markets which are popping up each new day.
Kamal Raj Pandey, chief of Dolpa Food Depot, says that people are now getting rice and other foodstuff at far cheaper rates. And that is why they are simply not taking interest in government-run depots or subsidized rates.
“Earlier, they needed to pay very high cost for rice and other foodstuff. Even then, they would hardly get high quality rice,” Pandey said. “But now, they have many choices. They can now opt for fine rice like ‘Jeera Masino’. They get it for normal rate.”
Free competition among local businesspersons have brought down the price of rice. Whoever comes to the government-run depot these days get the amount of rice they demand without staying in queue, Pandey informed.
In the changed context, the stocks at the NFC depots are actually rotting. Though the depots are expected to offer variety of food, customers are often left with no choice. It sells ‘Japanese rice’, according to the locals.
“That is not tasty. And does not come for any cheaper rate than other varieties either,” BK said. “I like Jeera Masino.”
BK further said that the government run depots now do not get customers. In the past, customers had to wait for their turn. But now, those depots wait for customers, she noted.
Pandey meanwhile mentioned the names of eight varieties of rice. As far as possible, all government depots try to offer those varieties, he said.
“There are many varieties of rice. We don’t always have all of those, but as far as possible, we try to get those here,” he said. “We have sold Aruwa, Mota, Madhyam, Makwanpure, Gorakhnath, Usina, Jeera Masino and Sona Mansuli, among other varieties,” he added.
The government food depots also offer pulse and beans at subsidized rates. Though locals were not ready to buy this point, he claimed that the rates at the depots are always less than that of the market.
“In the view of the free market now, the government has even lowered the rates. In our depots, rates are comparatively cheaper,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sher Bahadur Budha, chief of District Coordination Committee stated that public had put pressure to lower the rates. But still, those depots are not being sought after by locals as before.
“After pressure from all quarters, they had lowered the price of rice and other stuffs. And yet, the grains are rotting as the date has expired,” he said. “If you talk about Japanse rice, it has turned into powder. It has expired,” he added.
According to BK, if government depots still want to exist and run business, they must be able to compete with private stores.
“If we are given quality rice at subsidized rates, why would we buy it from other shops? But the thing is, you don’t get quality rice in the depots. They often give you outdated stuffs. Earlier, we had no option than to take home anything they provided, but now there are other shops,” she said elatedly.