Food: The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regularity Authority (BAFRA) yesterday banned the import of chilies from India.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said that consumers need not worry because chili produced locally would be able to meet demand.

“The domestic production is able to meet the requirement for summer. For winter, agriculture department is working out a strategy,” the minister said.

According to BAFRA’s press release, following the positive test result confirmed through laboratory testing for one variety of imported chilli in May 2016, all varieties of imported chillies that were available in the market were screened for pesticide residues.

Three imported chilli varieties, namely Hybrid, Terasani and Akashi, were sent to the Export Inspection Agency laboratory, India to test against four major groups of pesticides.

“As per the laboratory report, all three imported chilli varieties showed the presence of 4 –Bromo-2-Chlorophenol, a pesticide belonging to organochlorine group,” reads a press release.

According to the WHO Classification of Pesticides, 4- Bromo-2-Chlorophenol is considered to be moderately toxic (WHO Class II) and its use is not permitted in Bhutan.

The ban comes weeks after the authority banned the import of cauliflower and beans. Test results from laboratories in Thailand and India showed high content of pesticides in the vegetables.

The ministry also started an import permit system to help screen banned vegetables and to ascertain import volumes on a daily basis. Importers must submit the volume and type of vegetables and fruits that they want to import.

The authority also banned use of potassium bromate as a food additive on July 4.

The notification came about a fortnight after the Indian government banned the use of the substance in bread or baked food products.

“All food establishments and individuals manufacturing bread and bakery products are requested to extend their full cooperation and support in implementing this ban,” the BAFRA notification said.

BAFRA will continue to carry out regular surveillance of pesticide contents in fruits and vegetables through the use of field test kits and laboratory testing to ensure food safety.

BAFRA’s regulatory and quarantine inspectors in the dzongkhags will monitor the implementation of this temporary ban.

Tshering Palden