People who are looking forward to the annual treat of eating zongzi during the Dragon Boat Festival can rest assured that adequate supplies of glutinous rice, the main ingredient in the steamed dumplings, will be available at a reasonable price.
The Council of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Agency yesterday began selling price-controlled supplies for as low as NT$39 per kilogram.
Zongzi, consisting mostly of steamed glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, is traditionally made in celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on June 8 this year.
“The damage inflicted by Typhoon Krosa last year has resulted in a 20,000-tonne shortage in Taiwan’s glutinous rice stock,” the agency’s deputy director-general Yu Sheng-feng (游勝鋒) said.
The nation’s annual production of glutinous rice averages 60,000 to 65,000 tonnes, but the shortage this year has driven up glutinous rice prices by about 10 percent from NT$39 per kilogram last year to NT$43 this year, said Tsai Li-ching (蔡麗琴), director of the agency’s northern regional branch.
“In view of the extensive demand ahead of the Dragon Boat Festival, the agency has imported glutinous rice from the US and Thailand so that regular-priced supplies could still be offered to the public,” Tsai said.
The agency is selling long-grain glutinous rice from the US at NT$117 per 3kg bag and short-grain rice from Thailand at NT$123 per 3kg bag, she said.
Purchases will be limited to two bags per person per day, Tsai said.
She added that the rice would be available until June 6 at the agency’s 31 branches nationwide.
Glutinous rice supplies for making dumplings and rice cakes for the Lunar New Year next year are expected to be adequate, as this year’s good weather meant that domestic production would return to normal, Tsai said.
Many believe that the Dragon Boat Festival came about in the Warring States Period in ancient China, in commemoration of Qu Yuan (屈原), a high government official for the state of Chu (楚).
In Qu’s time, the largest state, Qing (秦), was known for its invasions of smaller states. Though Qu advised his lord to ally himself with the state of Qi (齊) to fight against Qing, his advice was ignored, and he was exiled.
When the Qing forces eventually killed Lord Chu, Qu committed suicide by jumping into the Miluo River (汨羅江).
Local fishermen rushed to the river to retrieve Qu’s body. Afraid that his body would be consumed by fish, they played drums loudly while dumping rice wrapped in bamboo leaves into the water so that the fish would eat the dumplings instead.