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The northeastern Indian market where fresh rat fetches top price

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An Indian Tea-tribe vendor sells cooked and uncooked rats at a weekly market in Kumarikata village along the Indo-Bhutan border. BIJU BORO/AFP

The northeastern Indian market where fresh rat fetches top price

FRESHLY-caught rat is at the top of the holiday menu for crowds flocking to a market in northeastern India that specialises in rodents from local fields.

Destined to be boiled, skinned and then cooked in a spicy gravy, rat is more popular than chicken and pork with customers at the Sunday market in the village of Kumarikata in Assam state.

Shoppers buy hundreds of freshly caught and skinned rats that local farmers say are hunted to avoid damage to their fields in the state which borders Bhutan. The ready-roasted kind also goes down well.

Rat has become a valuable source of income for the poor “Adivasi” tribal people who struggle to make ends meet working in Assam’s famed tea gardens.

In the winter months when tea picking slumbers, the Adivasis go to rice paddies to trap rats for the market.

A kilogramme of rat meat, which is considered a delicacy, sells for about 200 rupees ($2.8) – as much as for chicken and pork.

Farmers say the region has seen growing numbers of rats in recent years.

“We put traps in the fields as the rats eat people’s paddy,” said Samba Soren, a rat vendor at Kumarikata.

The rodents are hunted at night during the harvesting season with traps made from bamboo.

The traps are placed at the entrance of the rat-holes in the evening and the rodents are caught as they come out to scavenge.

The vendors have to work at night to make sure other predators do not get to the dead rats first. Some of the rats weigh more than a kilogramme and the market traders say they get between 10 and 20kg a night.

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