Export issues to be resolved soon

The exports of ginger and areca nuts from Bhutan were stopped in May 2021

To solve the export issues of potatoes, ginger and areca nuts from Bhutan to India, Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said the government had requested the Government of India (GoI) to remove all these non-tariff barriers and that the problem is expected to be resolved as soon as possible. 

During the Meet-The-Press session yesterday, the minister said farmers not able to export potatoes, ginger and areca nuts were mainly due to the non-tariff barriers in the trade sector.

Other agricultural produce are not an issue in trade except for potatoes, ginger and areca nuts, according to the minister. 

Further, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the two countries discussed broad resolutions of trade issues during the recent visit of External Affairs Minister of India, Dr S. Jaishankar, to Bhutan.

“We requested the Indian government for two things – that is to remove non-tariff barriers and the other request is to remove time bound extension and to give perpetual extension,” the minister said.

 Meanwhile, as most of the issues were happening at the ground level, the Economic Affairs Minister said that he had discussed the issues with the customs officials of Assam and West Bengal, and the chief minister and those who are in the trading sector so that the trading doesn’t suffer.

“I even discussed with the Commerce Minister of India where they have assured me that they will definitely resolve the issues for which the announcement will soon be made,” the minister added.

The issue on potatoes is extended till June 2022, whereas the restrictions on ginger and areca nuts were imposed from last year. 

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the problems in export emerged after the Coid-19 pandemic when commodities had to be listed to be exported.

“The overall issue prior to the pandemic, when the borders were not close, everything was taking place informally and not formally and officially. There is only one product that is officially allowed for export from Bhutan and that was asparagus. No other commodities were listed to be exported,” the minister said.  

“Similarly, even fertilizers are not allowed by India, but Bhutan was importing. All of these issues came because of the pandemic as borders were closed and that’s how many of the trade related issues surfaced,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, the exports of ginger and areca nuts from Bhutan were stopped in May 2021, and the export of potatoes from Bhutan was stopped in 2020, but temporary exemptions were provided by the GoI in 2020 and also in 2021.

The current exemptions from the import restrictions for potatoes are reportedly valid till June, 2022

Bhutan has not been able to export the above items as areca nut is a prohibited item as per the Import Policy 2017 of India. Similarly, ginger and potatoes are also among the restricted items.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu