Food stocks down to weeks supply

Foodstuffs are running low and the prices of fresh vegetables have shot up as deliveries were disrupted by the tarai banda which has entered its sixth day. Traders warn that if the supply situation worsens, the resulting acute shortage of food and vegetables would lead to further price rises. "Rice and oil stocks held by major wholesalers in the Kathmandu Valley are down to half of normal levels,' Satish Kumar Bohara, joint secretary of the Nepal Rice, Oil and Pulse Producers Association, told the Post. According to Bohara, stockpiles of rice and oil have dwindled to 5,000 and 1,500 tons respectively in the marketplace. "The existing supply can fulfill the needs of the valley's 2.5 million population for hardly seven to 10 days,' he said. "The prices of foodstuffs, which are sourced mainly from the eastern tarai, will skyrocket due to the severe scarcity.' He attributed the disruption in supply to the tarai unrest, fuel shortage and load-shedding, which has brought production to a complete halt at rice mills. The banda in the tarai has also impacted the transport of vegetables, and fewer shipments are arriving at the marketplace. According to Binaya Shrestha, planning officer of the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market Development Board (KFVMDB), the inflow of vegetables at the Kalimati wholesale market has plummeted to around 500 tons per day from over 750 tons a week ago. Vegetables from India and the tarai account for 25 percent of the total supply during this season. "The delivery of fish and lemons from India was almost nil during the past week,' Shrestha said. However, traders said that the prices of popular vegetables, barring some items, had not gone up because of the bumper harvests in the districts around the Kathmandu Valley. Tarai farmers are supplying vegetables at throwaway prices to the valley, which is the only major market for them. "But this state of affairs will not last for long. If the transport situation does not improve immediately, a hike in vegetable prices is inevitable because of the exorbitant freight charged by carriers,' said Bhoj Raj Rimal, a wholesaler of fresh vegetables at Kalimati. According to him, truckers have jacked up their rates to Rs 27,000 from Rs 15,000 previously for carrying a load of vegetables to Kathmandu from Lahan, a major vegetable trading hub. The collection, processing and delivery of dairy products have also been thrown into chaos by load-shedding and the acute fuel shortage which has resulted in fewer vehicles plying on the roads, said dairy producers. "Despite the problems, we have managed to get by so far,' said Sumit Kedia, general secretary of the Dairy Producers Association. He added that milk collection, processing and delivery would come to a complete halt if the fuel supply did not improve soon. Private dairies collect around 350,000 liters of milk daily from more than half a dozen districts. Posted on: 2008-02-18 22:10:15 (Server Time)

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