KATMANDU – A whopping 460,000 kg of Japan-donated rice is languishing in the warehouse of government-run Nepal Food Corp. in a district in far-western Nepal because the grain has failed to find takers, officials said Wednesday.
Villagers in Jumla, a district located 350 km northwest of Katmandu, prefer the more expensive Nepali rice sold locally to the subsidized Japanese rice for reasons ranging from the latter’s different taste to the fact that it becomes sticky and does not increase in volume in the course of cooking, said Rana Bahadur Budhathoki, NFC chief for the district.
“Though the Japanese rice is far better in quality than Nepali rice sold in the district, people are not buying Japanese rice because of their food habit,” Budhathoki said.
The subsidized Japanese rice is priced at 39 rupees (¥43.3) per kg. However, villagers are buying Nepali rice priced between 40 and 100 rupees a kilo.
According to Budhathoki, the main concern among villagers is that the Japanese rice does not swell in the course of cooking.
“Nepali rice, on the other hand, swells up in the course of cooking. Villagers say they prefer rice that swells as it feeds more people,” Budhathoki said.
“Villagers also complain that they don’t know how to cook Japanese rice. They don’t like sticky rice. They have even nicknamed the Japanese rice as chewing-gum rice,” he added.
The NFC in Jumla has been facing problems selling Japanese rice ever since the district got connected to the Karnali highway a few years ago. With traders bringing in supplies to the district, locals now have the luxury of choosing between Nepali rice available in the local market and Japanese rice that NFC distributes.
Jumla is not the only district where NFC is having a tough time finding takers for Japanese rice.
“The story is the same in neighboring Kalikot district,” Budhathoki said.
Hari Pyakurel, chief government administrator of Jumla, said the stock of Japanese rice will most likely be cleared in the coming few months when the monsoon could obstruct the highway, hampering delivery of fresh supplies to the district.
Last year, NFC in Jumla cleared a similar stockpile of Japanese rice during the Dashain festival after considerably lowering the price.
Japan provides food aid to several districts in far-western Nepal that face shortages every year.