Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

Boulder export from Phuentsholing has resumed since September 15 after it was suspended on March 23 when the border gate was sealed as the nation responded to the pandemic.

On September 28, six exporters from Phuentsholing exported 102 truckloads of boulders and aggregates, which is about 4,020.57 metric tonnes (MT) of boulders, worth USD 78,807.54.

Considering the “provisional Bhutan Trade Statistics (BTS),” from January and June this year, Bhutan exported boulders worth Nu 899.9 millions (M). It was the third most exported commodity until June. However, this figure is of exports before the nationwide lockdown.

The six exporters on average export about 60 truckloads of boulders including aggregates daily.

As per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), dredging companies need to have containment zones. Exporters, who are not dredging must use their containment zones for now. The quantity of export is determined depending on the capacity of the containment zones.

One of the dredgers, Pema, is preparing the containment zone.

“However, the absence of a weighbridge has become a problem,” he said, adding that it was difficult to process the documentation without the weighbridge.

Pema said that export documentation will be completed only after the loads are weighed in.

As of now, exporters are using the thromde’s weighbridge near the truck parking, which many say is not safe without proper parking space.

Truckloads from different exporters and dredgers use the same weighbridge and vehicles could crowd increasing the chances of protocol breaches, exporters say.

At present, trucks weigh at thromde’s weighbridge and are escorted back to the respective containment zones of the dredgers. This costs them extra in fuel cost and loss in time, exporters and dredgers say.

Kuensel learned that Bhutan Export Association (BEA) is currently working on a common containment zone, which would also have a weighbridge and serve all exporters and dredgers.   

However, it will take about a month before the containment zone is ready.

The exporters have to deploy Indian trucks and Indian drivers with Bhutanese trucks.

Boulder was the second most exported product for the past two years. Bhutan exported boulders worth Nu 4.9 billion (B) in 2019 and Nu 2.1B in 2018.

In 2017, when boulder export started, Bhutan exported boulders worth Nu 690M and it was the eighth most exported product.

Boulder export from Samtse has also resumed since September 12. About 29 exporters export about 100 truckloads of boulders (and aggregates) everyday.

Samtse dredging companies and exporters were also able to export boulders prior to the lockdown—during the first week of August.

Meanwhile, today, no new dredging works have been allowed or allotted to the existing dredging companies since the end of 2018 at the Toorsa embankment. Whatever is exported are stocked materials.

There are more than 50 exporters, including dredging companies in Phuentsholing.