Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Three main exporters in Samtse exported a total of 373.42 metric tonnes (MT) of oranges worth Nu 15.01 million (M), bringing an end to the export for the season.

Although export was expected to start in the first week of December 2020, an issue related to importing the wooden (packing) boxes from India delayed it. Export began on December 22 after the issue was solved. The last consignment left Samtse for Bangladesh on January 17.

The proprietor of Adhikari Export, Dadiram Adhikari, said he has dismantled his depots and returned to his village.

“The business this time was average.”

He exported 13 truckloads of mandarin to Bangladesh and a few truckloads to India.

Dadiram Adhikari said the production, however, was decreasing each year.

“This has to improve.”

Other two export houses were Damzo Export in Samtse and Sipsu based DPGS Export.

Proprietor with the DPGS said the export business was not as expected this year, as pandemic resulted in escalation of transportation cost.

Usually, oranges from Sipsu, which is about 50kms away from Samtse, were directly exported from the nearby Jitti border. This time Jitti was closed due to the pandemic and exporters had to use the Samtse-Chamurchi route, which added the cost.

Transportation cost from Sipsu to Samtse and Bangladesh, transhipment and other road expenditures cost about Nu 30,000 this year compared to usual Nu 14,000 to Nu 15,000.

“The cost of packing boxes, including its transportation costs, also went up,” the DPGS proprietor said.

“We paid farmers the usual market. We ran in a loss.”

The Government of India (GoI) had agreed to open four new trade routes, such as Nagarkata, Agartala, Jogighopa, and Pandu on December 1 last year. Nagarkata route gives access to Jitti border but it has not yet opened.

Meanwhile, Phuentsholing is still exporting mandarin.

As per the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC), a total of 117 truckloads, equivalent to 972MT of oranges worth Nu 37.3M have been exported so far.

Unlike Samtse, exporters didn’t face much problem related to importing the packing boxes and the export first started on December 3 last year.

Exporter Sonam Tobgay of Druk Phuensum Import and Export said they faced labour shortage issues in the beginning.

“But this problem is there even in other places.”

DAMC’s marketing chief, Yonten Gyamtsho, said there was a minor issue of labour shortage because workers had to stay at containment mode.