Rice distribution under the government’s 100-day Vulnerable Group Feeding programme for ultra-poor farmers was yet to cover more than 65 per cent unions in Sunamganj due to ‘supply shortage’ till Thursday, four days after the programme was launched by prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by disaster management minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya at the secretariat on Thursday decided to bring 50,000 fishermen under the VGF programme besides the farmers affected by flashfood in the haor areas, according to a ministry official.
On Sunday, the prime minister inaugurated the distribution of rice and cash money among the farmers at Sulla upazila in Sunamganj, the worst hit district by the early flood that damaged standing boro paddy, the annual mono crop in the haor belt.
The relief and disaster management ministry has taken the programme to support the farmers whose boro crops were massively damaged in the flashflood caused by excessive rainfall and onrush of hilly water coming from the upstream across the border in late March.
The ministry has also decided to bring 1.5 lakh ultra-poor farmer families of Sunamganj under coverage of the 100-day food support that offers 30 kilograms of rice and Tk 500 in cash every month to each of the selected families until July 31.
But, local people’s representatives and administration officials told New Age on Thursday that distribution of rice and cash money had not yet begun in many of the upazilas while the process had to remain suspended in some upazilas due to supply shortages of rice.
Selim Ahmad, chairman of sadar union under Dharmapasha upazila in the district, said that the relief distribution under the VGF could not be started as there was not enough supply of food grains to the upazila food office.
Abdul Ahad, a member of the committee to prepare the list of affected farmers for the VGF at sadar union of Jamalganj upazila, said that they were scrutinising the list so that only genuinely affected farmers could be selected for food support.
Jamalganj upazila nirbahi officer Prasun Kumar Chakrabarti, however, claimed that they had enough supply of rice and would start distribution from Sunday after finalising the list.
Bishwambharpur upazila food officer Kamona Ranjan Dash said they had started the VGF rice distribution on Wednesday. ‘But, the process was kept suspended on Thursday due to shortage of rice supply,’ he added.
District food office sources told New Age that three more weeks would be needed to launch rice distribution in all of the unions under the 100-day food support programme.
A total of 8,000 tonnes of rice in two consignments was supposed to be supplied in Sunamganj from the government storages in the country’s northern region for the VGF and other food supports, including the open market sale and fair price sale, in the haor region.
‘Some 1,000 tonnes of rice of the first consignment has so far reached Sunamganj and the rest of the amount would be supplied gradually, which will require at least three more weeks,’ a food official said.
When contacted, district food controller Md Zakaria Mostafa told New Age that they had begun distributing the VGF rice at 30 out of total 88 unions in the district.
‘We are hopeful of beginning the VGF programme at all unions of the district by May 25,’ Zakaria said adding that other programmes of food support — OMS and FPS — were going on in full swing across the district without any hindrance.
According to Agricultural Extension Department, standing paddy on 1,66,612 hectors out of a total 2,23,082 hectors wetlands in the district were damaged in the recent flood.
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