… in the last eight months 

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials in Gelephu have, in the last eight months, seized 1.8 metric tonnes (MT) of illegally imported chilies.

During the same period, 500kgs of beans and 400kgs of cauliflowers were also seized. People were also penalised for trying to import the restricted vegetables.

The BAFRA officials collected a penalty of Nu 96,640 since the government banned the import of chillies, beans and cauliflowers in July last year.

Thursday is an important day for BAFRA officials in Gelephu. It is market day at the border town of Dadgiri. People from as far as Bumthang and Trongsa travel to buy goods at wholesale rates from this market. And it is also on Thursday that people import a lot of banned items.

BAFRA officials, therefore, conduct thorough inspections on the Gelephu-Tsirang highway, Gelephu-Trongsa highway and at the border gate.

Last Thursday, at least 38kgs of chillies were seized.

The price of chillies in Dadgiri is Nu 20 per kilogramme, whereas vegetable vendors sell the same product at Nu 60 per kilogramme in Gelephu town and Nu 100 in Tsirang. Chillies imported from Kolkata and distributed by the Youth Business Corporative (YBC) to vegetable vendors in all 20 dzongkhags is available at Nu 80 a kilogramme.

Sr regulatory and quarantine inspector of BAFRA, Tenzin, said that the chillies brought from the bordering towns of Jaigaon and Dadgiri have high pesticide residue content. Those imported from Kolkata are pesticide-free.

“Chillies from Kolkata show negative while testing for pesticide content, whereas chillies from Falakata show more than permissible limit of pesticide content,” he said.

He added that even before the government began importing chillies from Kolkata, officials from BAFRA were sent to Kolkata to conduct tests. When the consignment reaches the border gate in Phuentsholing, pesticide tests are conducted.

In the last two weeks alone 31MT of chillies were imported. Another 12MT is on the way. YBC distributes the imported chillies to vegetable vendors across the country.

Vendors now need to produce an authentication receipt when transporting chillies from one dzongkhag to another. If an authentication receipt is not produced, the consignment is seized and a penalty levied.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang