Nima | Gelephu

Boulder export from Gelephu to Bangladesh and India resumed in containment mode on March 14.

Sarpang and Gelephu imposed frequent lockdowns since January and boulder export had remained closed for almost two months.

Exporters in Gelephu lost most part of the peak export season to repeated lockdowns and relaxations, as it involved the movement of vehicles in large numbers.

Winter is considered the best time for export because of the better road and favorable weather conditions.

Exporters lost transporters from India to other works in the last two months. The export is yet to return to normal, according to the officials from Bhutan Export Associations (BEA).

Officials from the agencies concerned are at the dry port near the industrial service centre in Trashiling  in Gelephu.

BEA and exporters plan to come up with a better containment facility to ensure the trade continues undisturbed in the future.

Programme officer with BEA, Guru Wangchuk, said the export resumed after 55 days. “It was challenging to resume the trade because of frequent community outbreak in Gelephu and Sarpang. The task force supported opening the export recently.”

The official added that the current containment mode would help the export return to normal. “We would be able to continue the export even during the lockdown in the future. We will strengthen the containment mode.”

Fifty trucks of boulders and aggregates were exported in the past two days. The aggregates were mostly exported to India and boulders to Bangladesh. Six exporters resumed the export to date.

Exporter Chencho Gyeltshen said resuming the export in containment would help recover the trade. “It was challenging to work in containment because of the heat.  We will resume the export as usual when all restrictions are lifted.”

He added that it was challenging to get INR from the banks.

“Our staff works in containment mode.  Submitting documents to banks is inconvenient. We appealed the task force to let only staff fueling trucks and weighing bridge official work in containment at the dry port,” said Chencho Gyeltshen.

Lockdown impact on the export 

Exporters in Gelephu depend on the transporters from India to ferry boulders and aggregate to the export market. In the past two months, the truckers hired for boulder export from Assam, India had left for other projects.

The letter of credit (LC), an important bank document required for the export has expired. Exporters say amending the LC details was difficult.

Chencho Gyeltshen said exporters have made advancement payments for the transporters from India. “We have lost our customers too. Still then, we hope the export recovers if we continue working in containment mode during lockdowns.”

Stopping the export after every lockdown period would worsen the trade, according to exporters.

Gelephu exported over 5,000 and 4,000 metric tonnes of boulders respectively in February and March last year. Fourty trucks of boulders and aggregates were exported in the past two months:  over 1,500 metric tonnes approximately.

Sources say the exporters struggled to make timely payments for the staff since the lockdown stopped the export abruptly.

Gelephu exported over USD two million worth of boulders and aggregates to India and Bangladesh last year, according to the record with BEA.