Vast quantities of rice meant to be distributed to earthquake victims remains stored in warehouses throughout Nepal, and instead of being handed out for free it will be sold to the public at wholesale prices.
The Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) government agency said millions of dollars worth of rice donated by the Bangladesh government in the wake of the devastating 7.8 magnitude quake in April last year is slowly expiring in storage. But it argues that there is "no demand" for the rice or additional food from disaster-struck villages around the country.
The proceeds from the rice, which at market prices would bring in around US$30 million, will be placed in a future disaster fund available for use by the government. However, the fund has not yet been established and further details have not been ironed out.
"It is hard to stock rice for so long, so the government has decided to sell that rice on local markets,” said Pawan Kumar Karki, the NFC's Deputy General Manager.
"I know that it is hard and will take time to sell it all. That's why we have a problem and are making plans for it."
In the meantime, many victims still need food, according to aid agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs). And time is ticking on the rice in storage.
Of the 100,000 metric tonnes donated by Bangladesh, just over 21,000 tonnes have been distributed to 14 districts in Nepal. The rest, with a maximum shelf life of about one year, remains in several storage hubs, many of which were badly damaged in the earthquake.
As a result, some of the rice - the NFC would not confirm how much - was ruined by water leakages and deemed unfit to eat. Local news reports also alleged that rice was rotting in warehouses in Gorkha and Jhapa because local authorities had received no directives to hand it out, while other rice was reportedly distributed to areas that were not impacted by the earthquake.
Rice storage warehouses were damaged in the earthquake and have not been repaired in the year since.
Another report claimed rice riddled with insects was being stored in the NFC's main food warehouse in Kathmandu.
This was angrily denied by the warehouse manager in the Nepali capital, who still carries the accusing newspaper article in his work satchel and was quick to try to prove that the Bangladeshi rice was fit for sale.
"It was a complete fabrication," Mohan Prasad Chand said, while pointing out line by line the errors he saw in the story. Earlier, he gave Channel NewsAsia a brief tour of the enormous warehouse holding mountains of the donated rice in hessian sacks - about 16,000 tonnes worth.
Opening one bag of the rice, he exclaimed: "See it's fine; very delicious for the people!" The condition of the rest of the food, piled high or in other warehouses, could not be verified.
The NFC, which is in charge of controlling food prices and stopping black markets for food, said it could still be months before the rice would be available for sale to the public. It plans to sell it at an affordable price to most Nepali families - about 40 US cents per kilogram.
'ALWAYS A SHORTAGE OF FOOD'
International NGO groups have criticised the plan, saying that the food could be better used to serve the very people it was originally intended for - struggling earthquake victims. Hundreds of thousands of people remain without proper shelter one year after the incident: many of those still live in tents and have no means of income.
The rice donated from Bangladesh is kept separate in the warehouses and is currently not available to purchase.
"Significant pockets of food insecurity remain," said Pippa Bradford, the Nepal country director for the World Food Program, which provided food assistance to two million people in the aftermath of the earthquake. "Those worst affected - who lost the most - were those least able to recover, such as female-headed households and marginalised indigenous and ethnic groups."
"There are some communities that still need food, that's true. Even in normal times, some of our people were in deficit of food and it makes sense to distribute it," said Rudra Neupane, the director of NGO Phase Nepal, which focuses much of its aid and relief projects on remote areas of the country.
"The people living in higher areas are in need of food. Alternately, they could distribute in the far west; there is always a shortage of food there," he said.
Distributing food to remote areas is a major hurdle, the NFC admits.
"There should be an arrangement to distribute it. Now it is not that hard as it was, the roads were blocked by landslides but now it is not that difficult."
Yet he admits that a year after the devastating events of April 2015, food is not the most pressing need for many people. "For some people, immediately after the earthquake, food was not a problem because their house was destroyed but they still had rice. That created a lot of confusion. Now, in our communities people don't ask for food they ask for shelter."
Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, the secretary-general of the Nepal Red Cross Society agreed that sanitation, food and shelter was more important for victims than food. He said, though, that people's inability to store their rice reserves properly was adding strain to many households.
The Nepali government was critical of many international donors during the initial aftermath of the quake, saying much of the food being shipped in for donation was "inappropriate" for local people. Mr Karki said the NFC was inundated with "junk food", such as potato chips, but had distributed all of it through its regional partners - none of this food has been stored, he said.
According to the government, where shelter, blankets and cash were needed to help victims, many donors instead sent food. Mr Neupane said that was not surprising given the chaotic situation. "With big disasters, these things are likely to happen," he said.
The NFC argued that one of the main reasons for not distributing more rice was Nepal's terrain and the isolation of many villages, particularly in mountainous areas. High-lying areas, including at the epicentre in Gorkha, west of Kathmandu, were badly impacted by the quake.
Warehouse manager Mohan Prasad Chand said he has made a proposal to the Home Ministry to establish 17 more food warehouses capable of storing rice in regions around the capital, including Gorkha, Nuwakot and Sindhupalchok.
He acknowledged. major problems exist for distributing food, a situation only exacerbated during a time of disaster when roads are blocked and access to many areas is restricted. Currently, people from outlying areas need to travel to Kathmandu if they wish to purchase bulk amounts of wholesale-priced rice.
"By storing and selling rice from outer areas, the response would be much faster during any time of crisis," he said. But after several months, he said he has received no response from the government.
When questioned, the Home Ministry said it was still considering the expansion proposal and "making plans" but indicated its support to sell the donated rice.
"If you roll over the rice and other things, when the disaster happens, we will be able to provide food very fast," said spokesman Joint Secretary Yadav Prasad Koirala.
"There are no district warehouses to keep the disaster relief items. We have nowhere to keep the items where the victims are. If we make sheltered warehouses we can keep the relief items, it can protect the rice and other things in a rolling way," he said.
"We are thinking it's a good plan, but we are thinking about it and making the plans."