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Myanmarese rice on neighbours’ palate

Myanmarese traders with their merchandise in Kamjong, the nearest border town in Ukhrul, Manipur. ( Pics: H. Shimray)
Correspondent KAMJONG (UKHRUL), SEPT 1 (NPN):
Published on 2 Sep. 2010 12:46 AM IST
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For border villagers in Ukhrul, the neighbouring Myanmar’s rice is relished not only for its delicacy but is an alternative source in time of food scarcity.
Tilli, a variety of rice grown in the expansive Kabaw valley of Myanmar, has found a favour among border villagers for its flavour and affordability. The villages under Kamjong sub-division hit hard by drought and poor harvest last year has upped its consumption.
“It is far better in taste and cheaper compare to locally-produce or Andhra rice sold in the market. So it’s more preferred by consumers and affordable for poor villagers,” said Aying, a local school teacher.
“Kabaw sam” — a local parlance for tilli, is sold at Rs. 15 per kg whereas the Andhra or Manipuri rice is available at a minimal rate of Rs. 25 per kg.
This time, the border areas in the east of Ukhrul face food shortage after severely hit by drought last year, the worst ever in Manipur in 10 years. The problem was further compounded by intermittent National Highways blockade, which acutely affected the supply of essentials in Manipur.
In the wake of the 68-day blockade called by frontal Naga organisations, the border villages depend largely on rice supply from Myanmar. “The rice is occasionally brought in by local traders but huge consignment happened in the past few months since April,” said Ashang, a member of Kamjong Development Committee.
He however added, “The huge consignment has been cut short this time due to rain.”
Local traders import the foodgrains from the nearest Myanmarese town Onshia, about 30 kms from Kamjong. “They imported as many as 800-1000 quintals of rice everyday before the onset of monsoon. The consignment is done without any hassle from custom regulations,” sources said.
However, the supply becomes difficult during monsoon as the road connecting the border town, falling under the Kamjong-Homalin (Myanmar) trade route, is yet to be metalled.
Recently, Rajya Sabha MP Rishang Keishang, the longest serving chief minister in Manipur, had announced that the road would be completely metalled under a Centrally-sponsored scheme. He hails from this area and represented for over three decades.
The connecting road from Kamjong to the nearest Myanmarese once completed is expected to boost trade and commerce between the two countries. The proposed Kamjong-Homalin trade route has been delayed for over decades.
Manipur is still reeling under acute shortage of essentials, despite several efforts initiated by Manipur government. The lull after 68-day blockade has been affected by another UNC-called 50-day commercial blockade on both National Highway 39 and 53.
The Manipur government is importing rice from Myanmar to tide over the current food crisis. In this regard, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had granted permission to import the proposed 30,000 metric tonnes of rice from Myanmar, according to official notification issued on August 21.
However, the Okram Ibobi Singh government is yet to start the rice import, which can considerably bring relief to the crisis-ridden state.

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