Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) has sought additional grants from the government to supply food in Humla, Kalikot, Mugu and Dolpa districts in Karnali region and Bajura district in Seti Zone, which have been hit the hardest by food shortages.
The government had originally decided to provide Rs107.9 million to dispatch food to these districts as per NFC’s. Out of this amount okayed by the Cabinet on May 13, NFC would spend Rs102.3 million to dispatch food to Karnali and Rs5.6 million to send food to Bajura.
The money would be used to supply 3,400 tonnes of rice to the five districts under the government’s special programme. The government has planned to dispatch 1,000 tonnes to Humla, 500 tonnes to Kalikot, 700 tonnes to Mugu, 800 tonnes to Dolpa and 400 tonnes to Bajura.
Pawan Kumar Karki, spokesperson for NFC, said they were low on money as the government had been slow in approving the grant. “Due to the delay in obtaining the funding, we have been forced to send the food by air to make up for lost time,” Karki told the parliamentary Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Protection Committee on Wednesday.
According to Karki, they have been unable to hire the required number of mules to deliver food to the hilly districts with the rainy season starting. Lawmakers had asked NFC to explain what was being done regarding the food supply situation in the districts that were worst hit by this year’s drought.
Due to scanty rainfall, crop production in Humla, Dolpa, Mugu, Kalikot, Jumla and Mugu districts is reported to have been halved. In Dolpa, where 90 percent of the fields rely on rainfall for lack of irrigation facilities, farmlands have remained barren.
Along with NFC’s food stock, the government has been supplying rice donated by Bangladesh last year as relief for people affected by the April 25 earthquake. According to the Supply Ministry, the government has 7,700 tonnes of rice remaining from the Bangladeshi grant.
Shreedhar Sapkota, secretary of the ministry, said they permitted NFC to distribute the rice stock as it was close to spoiling. According to him, the ministry was coordinating with the Nepal Army to reduce the cost of transporting food to the drought-hit districts. As per NFC’s estimate, Karnali’s annual requirement of food grain is 17,200 quintals. This year, the government has planned to dispatch 15,600 tonnes to 23 remote districts including those in Karnali zone. As of now, 10,259 tonnes have been dispatched.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have asked the government to seek alternative means to transport the food as soon as possible. Lawmaker Rajya Laxmi Shrestha criticised the government’s slow response to the food crisis.
Source: The Kathmandu Post