…Bhutan imported Nu 2.79B worth of charcoal in 2021

Thukten Zangpo 

Forest-rich Bhutan imported Nu 2.79 billion (B) worth of charcoal from India in 2021 and Nu 2.44B in 2022 (as of September).

If the country had produced charcoal, the trade deficit of Nu 48.14B as of September 2022 would have been narrowed by Nu 2.44B.

Charcoal is one of the major inputs used as fuel for heating and as reductant by the ferro-silicon industries in the country. It is also used for cement blending in the cement industries.

Ferrosilicon is the top commodity exported by Bhutan. In 2021, Bhutan exported ferrosilicon worth Nu 15B, the highest so far. In 2020, Bhutan exported Nu 7B worth ferrosilicon, Nu 9B in 2019, and Nu 13B in 2018.

In the last four years (2018 to 2021), Bhutan imported charcoal worth Nu 8.97B.

Minister of Energy and Natural Resources (MoENR), Loknath Sharma said that one or two medium and large charcoal industries are viable in the country. “We are looking at charcoal plants which could produce charcoal worth Nu 4B in a year as few more ferro-industries are upcoming.”

There is potential to substitute charcoal imports worth Nu  3B in a year that might increase further, Lyonpo added.

However, he said that there are no takers and the government can only facilitate and encourage charcoal production. “Feasibility by the government agencies is not done and we are waiting for the private sector to take this forward.”

Lyonpo also said that the ministry has asked big investors in the country to explore the possibilities of starting a charcoal plant.

The ministry has asked the department of forests and park services under the ministry to look into the possibilities to identify the forest areas where  charcoal industries could be set up.

Raw material for the production of charcoal is generally wood, preferable waste coniferous species.

According to the National Export Strategy 2022, Bhutan has the potential to export USD 30,000 worth of charcoal only in India in a year, Bangladesh, and Nepal.