Valley starts to witness shortage of essentials

Kathmandu, September 1

A prolonged political protest in the tarai region has directly hit the supply of essential commodities, like food, vegetables and fuel among others, across the country as transportation service has been halted due to the disturbance on the highways along with rising insecurity.

The Capital, with a population of around four million people, has begun to witness shortage of fuel since the last few days. Likewise, the price of vegetables has also soared due to low supply.

In a bid to assuage the situation, government officials, today, assured that the supply of essential commodities will not be affected due to the ongoing protests and the government is committed to providing security to the suppliers and transporters.

The meeting of the Supply Committee led by Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) Jib Raj Koirala has decided to bring petroleum tankers stuck at Raxaul of India due to protests in Birgunj with escorts from security forces. It is reported that 164 petroleum tankers dispatched to Nepal from Indian Oil Corporation’s Raxaul depot are stuck in the border due to growing tension in Birgunj in the last two days. Moreover, other imported goods are also stranded in the border due to the strike.

In this regard, Koirala held a meeting today with the Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Department of Commerce and Supply Management (DoCSM) and the private sector entrepreneurs involved in petroleum transportation. In the meeting, the representatives of the security forces expressed commitment of providing security for transporters.

“Even as Nepali transporters are willing to conduct service, it is difficult to convince the Indian transporters to ferry cooking gas,” Koirala said. “We have diverted some cooking gas bullets to Bhairahawa from Birgunj (Raxaul) to maintain the supply of cooking gas.”

The country is reliant on Indian transporters to ferry cooking gas. As per Koirala, three gas bullets that were diverted to Bhairahawa will arrive by tomorrow, but more than nine gas bullets are stranded in Raxaul due to the protests.

As per MoCS, there is sufficient stock of rice and salt in Kathmandu to cater to the demand of over three months, but due to low storage capacity of gas bottling plants, the supply of cooking gas may be affected if the protest prolongs.

With the protest continuing since the last two weeks, the price of vegetables has gone up substantially. The price of potatoes (red and white) has increased by Rs 10 and seven rupees per kg, respectively, as compared to the price two weeks ago.

Similarly, the price of local cauliflower has gone up by Rs 10 per kg over the last two weeks. Prices of pointed gourd (parwal), snake gourd (chichindo), sponge gourd (gheeraula), pumpkin, squash, mustard leaf, spinach leaf, cress leaf, fenugreek leaf (methi ko saag), sugarbeet and fiddlehead fern (niguro) rose by Rs 10 per kg each, as per the price list of Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market Development Board. “Price of vegetables soared due to low supply against increased demand.”

Along with the supply crunch of some commodities, DoCSM — the authorised body for market monitoring — has said that it has been receiving grievances related to traders hoarding commodities and black-marketeering to capitalise on the dire situation.

Shambhu Koirala, director general of DoCSM, said the department has mobilised monitoring teams to curb such malpractices.