Sonam Dema | Intern

While the agricultural officials claim that there is still a ban on imported green chilies, beans, and cauliflower, the vendors in Thimphu are openly selling these vegetables in their shops.

The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) first imposed a temporary ban on these vegetables in May 2016, stating that they have a high content of pesticide residues and might cause detrimental health problems.

In a notification issued in 2018, BAFRA stated that the test results of the three vegetables, generated over the past two years, consistently showed pesticide residues above the MRL (Maximum Residue Limit).

Jambay Dorji, BAFRA’s Deputy Chief of the Regulatory Quarantine Office, said, “Once the imported vegetables are brought to the mini dry port, the Royal Bhutan Police at the Integrated Check Post Management Unit collect samples of the vegetables to ensure that there is the least amount of chemicals and pesticides.”

However, despite the high pesticide content, the government lifted the restriction on the import of green chilies during the lockdown due to a shortage of locally produced chilies.

While some vendors openly sell the imported vegetables, many are confused about the ban. They cannot find local green chilies and hesitate to keep the imported ones in stock. Some deceive the buyers by claiming that the imported chilies are from Tsirang or Dagana.

Consumers, however, are at the receiving end of the vague policy. A Thimphu resident said that she paid a hefty sum for a kilogram of green chilies, as the vendor said it was local. “But later, I learned that the imported chilies are flooding our market.”

We are feeling the brunt of being deceived by the vendors as there are no clear directives on the ban. “We are deceived in the name of local products,” a consumer said.

“Penalties will be imposed on those who sell cauliflowers and beans that have been strictly restricted until now,” said Mr. Jambay Dorji.

Meanwhile, the cost of the vegetables has significantly risen in recent days. A bunch of spinach that was sold at Nu 40 in the past now costs Nu 70 in the Centenary Farmers’ Market.