This is as per the provisional trade statistics for the first quarter of this year
The lockdown in Phuentsholing has been lifted, but the export of vegetables will depend on the situation across the borders, according to Agriculture and Forests Minister Yeshey Penjor.
The minister said that the export via Jaigaon in India came to an abrupt halt when it was the peak time for farmers to export using Phuentsholing as the route.
“But if there are buyers across the borders, we must elevate exports for our farmers. It is important to keep this export channel proper and streamlined,” Lyonpo said.
“Export is ongoing and it must done more as long as there are buyers across the borders,” Lyonpo said, adding that with the introduction of Goods and Service Tax in India, there have been several new digital developments especially at the entry points (borders) that require documentation and adherence to domestic laws and regulations.
According to MoAF, the government will stick to formal trade which requires documentation and adherence to domestic laws and regulations after the border roads open but if the people insist on informal trade, it is up to the people to do business.
However, for decades, Bhutan has been exporting vegetables to India formally, but a majority of these vegetable exports have been informal including cash crops like areca nuts, cardamom, ginger, and oranges.
In the year 2020, vegetable exports to India have been recorded at Nu 715mn and Nu 23.1mn to COTI (Countries Other than India).
According to the provisional trade statistics for the first quarter of this year, Bhutan exported about Nu 19.47mn worth of vegetables to India, despite the Covid situation and border roads closure.
“Before the pandemic, most of the vegetable exports were informal where vegetables were sold easily with good rates. But the new taxation hampers all this informal trade,” Lyonpo said.
Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor shared that importers in India need an import license and those vegetables being imported need to be notified under the Plant Quarantine Order (PQO) of India for which a Pest Risk Analysis needs to be conducted.
“There are also other import conditions that need to be fulfilled while importing vegetables into India such as sanitary and phytosanitary conditions, volume restrictions, minimum import price, etc,” Lyonpo said, adding that the importers there aren’t aware of such requirements and in particular importers in the bordering areas.
The minister shared that the government has liaised with the Government of India and obtained PRA for almost all cash crops (areca nuts, ginger, mandarin, cardamom, potato, and asparagus) and additional PRA for other vegetables is being pursued.
“In terms of vegetables, we export most to India but currently due to additional requirements like PRA, PQ, and other restrictions, there has been a disturbance to export cabbage, carrot, and even ginger,” he added.
Meanwhile, the government is exporting other goods from 17 entry and exit points, and to 14 countries, even during the pandemic but at a reduced volume.
Kinley Yonten from Thimphu