As the organic winter chilies from the fields hit the market, its high price has also attracted import of illegal chilies from across the border.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) in Phuentsholing have been seizing imported chilies almost everyday. The authority on January 22 seized 684 kilograms of chilies- the biggest so far at Rinchending check post en route to Thimphu. Prior to this BAFRA had seized 672kgs of chilies.

Along with imported chilies, BAFRA had also intercepted about 695kgs of imported (illegal) cauliflower and 643kgs of beans in these two incidences at Rinchending check post. BAFRA has imposed a penalty of Nu 1.9 million (M) and Nu 1.6M respectively.

Phuentsholing BAFRA office’s in-charge, Phuntsho said these consignments are illegal import.

“The case is going to the court,” the in-charge said, adding that as of now only drivers were caught and that there should be somebody who supported them. “The drivers have not yet revealed anything.”

Phuntsho said that if these chilies reached Thimphu, it would be sold in the name of organic Bhutanese winter chilies, and make huge margins.

In the last three months starting November last year, Phuentsholing BAFRA, in other separate incidents have also seized 456kgs of chilies, 190kgs of beans, and fined the perpetrators Nu 1.2M. Meat was also seized and fined about Nu 399,515, officials confirmed.

Beans and cauliflower were banned in May 2016 due to high chemical contents, which posed threat to consumers. In July 2016, the government also stopped import of chilies from across the border for the same reason.

Starting July 2016 until December 2018, BAFRA has intercepted 11 metric tonnes of banned vegetables. The authority had also imposed about Nu 16M as penalty.

BAFRA also seized 33kgs of fertilizers on two different occasions this month.

“We have surrendered the case to the ministry,” in-charge Phuntsho said, adding that they were not empowered to penalise.

Phuntsho said that fertilizer import is not allowed without sanctions from the ministry.

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing