BAFRA seizes over 10MT of banned vegetables

Over Nu 7mn has been collected in fines from smuggling of banned vegetables

More than 10 metric tons (MT) of vegetables worth Nu 15mn were seized following the ban of green chili, cauliflower and beans in the country from 2016 till December 2018.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) temporarily banned cauliflowers and beans in May 2016. Following this, green chilies were also temporarily banned due to high pesticide content.

BAFRA’s Director General, NamgayWangchuk, said that these vegetable items are temporarily banned since these items contain pesticide content above the maximum consumption limit and are not found fit for people’s health.

Namgay Wangchuk said that according to the revised food rules and regulations, vendors are fined 10 times the price of the seized vegetables. “To calculate the fine on vendors, we consider the rate of the vegetables in the local market.”

The highest amount of 67,375.67kg of banned vegetables was seized from Phuentsholing and Thimphu came second with 3,077kg of vegetables, according to records with BAFRA.

Till now, BAFRA has seized banned vegetables worth Nu 1,40,000 from one person, the highest recorded so far.

Meanwhile, a total of Nu 4mn was imposed for smuggling of banned vegetables from Phuentsholing, Nu 2.7mn from Thimphu and Nu.1.1mn from Gelephu from December 2016-17¬.

Further, most banned vegetables are stolen in during odd hours. “The BAFRA officials are on duty from 7am to 7pm and only when we have some information and complaints we are able to catch them,” said Namgay Wangchuk. “However, we conduct regular inspections in the check points and entry gates to stop these unhealthy practices.”

BAFRA conducts surveillance tests on banned vegetables, which are still found to have high levels of pesticide and chemicals. “We not only conduct surveillance tests on imported vegetables but also conduct tests on domestic products to check the level of pesticide and chemical content.”

However, he said that domestic products do not have high levels of pesticide and chemical content. “When vegetables are found to have high content of pesticides, numerous tests are run to confirm the results.”

Daw Zam, a vendor at the Centenary Farmers Market, said that they respect the efforts put in by BAFRA because they know the banned vegetables contain pesticides. “But the demand for vegetables is increasing and we are failing to produce it in the country,” she said.

Meanwhile, she also said local vegetables are expensive this time of the year.

Namgay Wangchuk mentioned that BAFRA conducts pesticide surveillance tests regularly and if the amount of pesticides is found acceptable, the ban will be lifted.

Jigme Wangchen from Thimphu