April 21, 2016 – Vast quantities of rice meant to be distributed to earthquake victims remains stored in warehouses throughout Nepal, and instead of being handed out for free it will be sold to the public at wholesale prices.
The Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) government agency said millions of dollars worth of rice donated by the Bangladesh government in the wake of the devastating 7.8 magnitude quake in April last year is slowly expiring in storage. But it argues that there is “no demand” for the rice or additional food from disaster-struck villages around the country.
The proceeds from the rice, which at market prices would bring in around US$30 million, will be placed in a future disaster fund available for use by the government. However, the fund has not yet been established and further details have not been ironed out.
“It is hard to stock rice for so long, so the government has decided to sell that rice on local markets,” said Pawan Kumar Karki, the NFC’s Deputy General Manager.
“I know that it is hard and will take time to sell it all. That’s why we have a problem and are making plans for it.”
In the meantime, many victims still need food, according to aid agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs). And time is ticking on the rice in storage.
Of the 100,000 metric tonnes donated by Bangladesh, just over 21,000 tonnes have been distributed to 14 districts in Nepal. The rest, with a maximum shelf life of about one year, remains in several storage hubs, many of which were badly damaged in the earthquake.