With tenders finally being answered at an ‘acceptable rate’, the FCI will import two lakh quintals of rice from Myanmar to create a buffer stock in case a calamity blocks the highway from Guwahati to Mizoram, the corporation’s main supply route during the ‘mega-block’ caused by gauge conversion work on the Lumding-Bairabi railway line.
R Lalvena, Mizoram’s Food and Civil Supplies Secretary, said Wednesday he has been informed that the bids to transport Myanmar rice into Mizoram have come down from the earlier bids that were above Rs 5500 per quintal although he did not say how much the new bids were for.
The FCI’s earlier tender had been unsuccessful because of the high bids, and the state government had to employ a private contractor from Aizawl to ferry rice from Assam and Myanmar to mitigate the short supply of foodgrains caused by the mega-block.
At 25,939 metric tons, the FCI’s current foodgrains stock in Mizoram is currently 102% of it’s storage capacity, Mizoram MP (Rajya Sabha) Ronald Sapa Tlau said after a review meeting Wednesday with FCI officials, and that there are no immediate supply issues.
The government is nonetheless evidently worried the supply route through Meghalaya and southern Assam may be disrupted (bandhs are common in both areas, and eastern Meghalaya has some landslide prone stretches) and so have pushed for a contingency plan in the form of rice imports from Myanmar.
Myanmar is considered the rice bowl of Asia, and rice remains one of it’s largest exports.
The Indian government had realised during preparations for the mega-block – which also affects Tripura, Manipur and south Assam – that it might be cheaper to supply Myanmar rice to the North-Eastern states rather than continuing to supply rice through the FCI from Punjab and Haryana.
Expectations have not been fully met as of now since tenders have not turned up competent enough bids, and officials say even the new supply route to Tripura by sea through Bangladesh is under pressure because supply contractors are bidding too high.
With ‘acceptable bids’ now having come in for supplying rice from Myanmar, however, Mizoram would be able to create a buffer stock in case the supply line is disrupted.