Bhutan imports goods worth Nu 52.50bn from India

Import and export of goods facilitated from other entry and exit points: MoEA Minister

The import accounted for Nu 28.60bn and export Nu 9.66bn for the period January 2021 to July 7 this year

While the two-week lockdown initiated on July 9 in Phuentsholing, following the emergence of new community cases, had put a halt on the import and export of goods from this border town, the Economic Affairs Minister said that the import and export of goods has not stopped from entry and exit points other than the ones in Phuentsholing.

However, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that Phuentsholing is the hub of import and export, accounting for more than 70% to 80% of the total trade.

The import accounted for Nu 28.60bn and export Nu 9.66bn for the period January 2021 to July 7 this year.

Additionally, the minister said the import and export is temporarily suspended from Phuentsholing’s main gate; however, very critical goods such as medical, fuel and LPG are facilitated.

Meanwhile, Lyonpo said that there is an adequate stock of essential items built up over the time to last for a few months as assessed on July 14.

“We have adequate stocks of critical essential items such as rice, edible oil and pulses. Dairy products, in particular milk, are consumed very fast for which importers are making arrangements to import from Gelephu,” he added.

Lyonpo also said that the import of essential goods from other entry and exit points are facilitated and the available stocks of goods are monitored frequently to ensure continuity in the supply chain.

During these 14 days of lockdown in Phuentsholing, Lyonpo said the impact on imports is estimated at Nu 1.26bn or USD 18.12mn.

Additionally, he said the impact on export is estimated at USD 1.9mn on account of boulder or minerals export and USD 0.096mn on export of agriculture goods, equivalent to Nu 140mn.

According to the minister, the possible impacts of suspending import from Phuentsholing are possible hike in price of commodities in western Dzongkhags or inflationary pressure in the overall goods and services, and disruption in supply chains.

He added that there could be possible panic buying and hoarding in western Dzongkhags and it may affect the construction sector and hydropower projects due to the shortage of construction materials. Low and middle-income people will be hit hard due to price increases triggered by the supply disruptions.

The possible impact of suspending export, Lyonpo said, would be revenue loss to the government in the form of royalty and mineral rent collection and effect on the foreign exchange inflow.

Additionally, he said there are also risks of stocked materials being washed away due to the monsoon rain, loss of employment opportunities to all those dependent on boulder export business and exporters not being able to service their loans for purchase of trucks and other machinery deployed in the boulder export.

“We are really concerned about the rising costs with rising fuel prices globally, and extra costs put in by COVID protocols which are dearly between lives and livelihoods,”  said Lyonpo.

He added that farmers are suffering not being able to find a market while domestic consumption is limited. “The rising inflation is the most hurting currently,” said Lyonpo.

Meanwhile, the Lyonpo appreciates the support and cooperation of people during these desperate times and hopes the normal import and export to resume after the vaccination and that there are no community cases. 

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu