Group formed to export farmers’ produce to third countries

Bhutan Export Business Line (BEBL), an export-oriented business in Phuentsholing is hopeful to take Bhutanese exports to the next level. Formed by Bhutanese business individuals, the association has already started exporting country’s commodities into third countries.

Since most of the Bhutanese commodities are absorbed within the Indian market, BEBL feels that the farmers are deprived of the deserving market price which is determined by the cross border traders. “There is scope beyond that which we need to explore,” said BEBL’s Chairman Rinzin Dorji. The popular third country destination for Bhutanese cash crop is Bangladesh where apple and mandarin are exported in larger quantities. The other market is Nepal for potato.

BEBL has started exploring markets like middle-east countries which fetch better prices. He said that while Bhutanese agro products are highly valued in these countries due to their organic nutrient content, lack of coordination and marketing strategies have hindered the Bhutanese products from reaching these destinations. They have procured a cardamom grading machine which is installed in their office. The machine grades the cardamom and the final product is exported. “Since we are promoting our country image internationally, quality is assured,” said Rinzin Dorji.

So far, BEBL has started only with cardamom but the association will explore markets for other cash crops later. The association plans to complete well established market for cardamom and venture into other cash crops. “Otherwise, we will lack in meeting their demands if we do not establish proper market and start doing everything at once,” the Chairman said.

BEBL aspires to collect best quality agro products from the farmers across the country and pay them better prices than the cross border traders. BEBL aspires to be a premier export business organization in the country completely operated by nationals. It also has Bhutanese exporters who deal with the export of apple, mandarin and cardamom.

BEBL feels penetrating Siliguri in West Bengal a challenge which is considered a hub for cardamom export business. However, the association is exploring every means to enter the market and export to third countries which are limited till now. It has opened its branches in other parts of the country to deal with the farmers.

The other cross border traders however said that Bhutanese products have better scope compared to other neighboring countries since theirs lack proper packaging for export. Local and cross border traders act as agents to export those products into Indian market. These traders say that the farmers have started cheating the traders packing inferior qualities at the base and better quality products on top in a sack a box. “Everyone values Bhutanese products and there is no doubt for prices. Such acts from Bhutanese farmers can decrease market,” an Indian trader said adding that customers lose trust.

However, the BEBL claims that indecent practices from these traders have compelled the farmers to cheat on packaging and the country’s image is taking a beating in the international market. “There are different deceptive practices being followed especially in weight luring them with attractive rates, but the farmers lose out at the end,” said BEBL’s Chairman.

BEBL meanwhile has different modes to encourage farmers to go for better packaging and quality maintenance. “We will pay according to the quality so that more farmers are encouraged to go for better packaging and products to earn more,” said Shiva Lal Subedi, a member of the group.

BEBL is also exploring options to export products like medicinal herbs, ginger, avocado, apple and citrus in the future. BEBL meanwhile feels the necessity of governmental organizers like agriculture sector, Department of Revenue and Customs and Trade to facilitate such exports.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing