It is almost time for officials of the Regional Farm Machinery Corporation Limited (RFMCL) in Gelephu to prepare the terraces for spring rice plantation but the officials are still struggling to market the rice it harvested last spring.

RFMCL cultivated an Indian rice variety issued by the agriculture department in mass for two seasons.

Officials say while the last stock of the first harvest was milled last month, this year’s harvest lies packed in the store in Gelephu.

“The only permanent market we have is Sarpang Central School,” an official said.

RFMCL’s manager, Kinley Zangmo, said that the two campuses of Sarpang Central School buy 2,600kgs of rice every month. It’s sold for Nu 28.5 a kilogram.

She said RFMCL tried selling the rice in the local market but it was rejected for its inferior quality and taste. “Rice is cheap and easily available across the border so people prefer imported rice over local.”

The price for the rice is higher than the price across the border.

The manager said that when the rice stock is not cleared on time, storage becomes a problem. “This year, at least 40.7 metric tons of rice was harvested from 75 acres in the fishery area.”

She said that of the total harvest at least 8.1MT was given to the landowners as their 20 percent share.

“The production is good from spring paddy but marketing is a big challenge,” Kinley Zangmo said.

In fishery area where FMCL cultivates paddy, at least 37 landowners own wetland, which was left fallow for a long time.

To streamline and have a permanent market for its produce, RFMCL will soon begin negotiating with other central schools in Sarpang.

“We’ll soon start milling this year’s stock that was harvested sometime in June but we don’t have a market yet,” regional manager Kinley Zangmo said.

She said that FMCL would require support from schools and dzongkhag administration in feeding students locally grown organic rice instead of imported rice.  “Schools in other dzongkhags will be explored to market the rice.”

Nirmala Pokhrel  | Gelephu