Kathmandu, June 2, 2016:Â Bangladesh is sending a gift of 10,000 tonnes of rice to Nepal to be deposited in the SAARCÂ Food Bank, an emergency res-erve for use in times of crisis in the South Asian region.
Officials said the grain to be received from Bangladesh will be added to the emergency stockpile as paddy production had dropped this fiscal year.
Nepal is required to maintain a reserve of 33,000 tonnes as its commitment to the Saarc Food Bank, but the present stockpile totals only 19,000 tonnes. The food reserves are stored in the depots of Nepal Food Corporation.
As per the Agreement on Establishing Saarc Food Bank, member states are required to keep reserves of rice or wheat or a combination of both.
Ananda Ram Regmi, spokesperson for the Supply Ministry, said Bangladesh would be shipping the rice shortly. â€œWe are receiving the grain under the heading of humanitarian support as different parts of the country have been struck by drought which could result in a massive drop in food output.â€
After the earthquake last year, Bangladesh had sent 1,000 tonnes of rice as relief support for the victims. However, the government has not distributed all the food to the targeted people.
The 770 tonnes left over from the relief shipment are being sent to Humla, Kalikot, Mugu and Dolpa in Karnali and Bajura in Seti. All these districts have been hit hard by the drought this year.
The Supply Ministry claimed that the rice remaining from last year was fit for consumption, refuting reports that the grain had started to rot. The Department of Food Technology and Quality had said last year that the 5.35 tonnes of rice sent by Bangladesh through Kakarbhitta and stored at the warehouse of the Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board was mouldy.
The Supply Ministry said that it had tested the quality of the rice intended for drought-hit areas. â€œThe lab test report shows that the food in stock is good for consumption,â€ he said.
The government is planning to dispatch the food to the drought-affected districts by Nepal Army helicopters. According to the Supply Ministry, it has received the go-ahead from the Defence Ministry and is waiting for the Finance Ministryâ€™s approval for the required funding. The government has okayed funding of Rs107.9 million to dispatch the food, but the ministry has asked for more money.Â Regmi said they would use private airlines if problems arose regarding Nepal Army choppers. â€œBy using helicopters, food can be rushed to the drought-affected areas before the monsoon starts,â€ he said. The government has planned to supply 3,400 tonnes of rice to the five districts under the governmentâ€™s special programmeâ€”1,000 tonnes to Humla, 500 tonnes to Kalikot, 700 tonnes to Mugu, 800 tonnes to Dolpa and 400 tonnes to Bajura.
â€œWe will be sending 2,500 tonnes from Nepal Food Corporationâ€™s stock, 800 tonnes from the Saarc Food Bank and the rest from the relief shipment from Bangladesh,â€ said Regmi.
By Rajesh Khanal