The cost of rice has risen dramatically for residents of a small township in Putao District in northern Kachin State. After the Chinese border was closed due to the pandemic, staple food has to be transported to villages in Hkawng Lanphu Township from other areas. During the rainy season, however, the roads are so bad that some people resort to traditional means to carry rice back to their villages.
“People are using mules to transport sacks of rice from Hkawng Lanphu town,” said a man who didn’t want his name published.
Another man told KNG explained it is expensive because it takes five days to send from Hkawng Lanphu. “We used to buy rice from China and it was easy to get it across the border. But now the Chinese government has closed the border after the outbreak of COVID-19 and we have to buy all our food from Hkawng Lanphu or Putao towns.”
A 70 kg sack of rice that costs $38 in the towns, costs between $63 and $71 in the villages. Cooking oil has gone up to $9.50 per 1.6 kg and a pack of dried noodles costs 50 cents. Locals in remote areas are supplementing their diet with wild herbs and vegetables they gather in the mountains.
Although the cost of imported food will certainly drop in November when the rainy season is over, residents of the township, which has 110,000 people living in about 100 villages according to a 2014 census, want the government to build a better transport link between the towns of Hkawng Lanphu and Putao.