Exports: Orange depots in Phuentsholing are receiving more than double the amount of oranges this year and with less Indian and Chinese oranges in the market, Bhutanese oranges are also attracting better prices.

However, the demonitisation process of high denomination Indian currency notes is having an impact, especially in regards to transportation.  As most of the produce is exported to Bangladesh on Indian trucks, Indian currency is required. Exporters said they are paying up to Nu 14,000 a truck to drop the oranges to Burimari on the Bangladeshi border.

Last year, exporters paid Nu 10,000 a truck.  “The more the quantity, the more we pay,” exporter Kinley Dorji of Druk Phuensum Export said. He also pointed out that exporters are paying up to 20 percent commission to get Indian currency.

Exporters said the problem started after truckers formed a syndicate and decided not to transport the oranges if they are not paid Nu 14,000.  Kinley Dorji also said the price of imported boxes from Cooch Behar, India to pack the oranges in is expected to increase given that labour charges have gone up.

Exporters currently pay Nu 65 for a box. The new price is not yet known.  Although demonitisation is not having a huge impact, the general manager with Manu Export, who wished not be named, said that it is mainly transportation that is resulting in extra expenditure.  On the exchange rate, he said exporters have to pay Nu 5,000 to get INR 4,000.

Exporters usually sell their poor quality oranges in the Indian market. However, this year exporters are not sure if they will be able to continue the business in India.

Meanwhile, orange arrivals in the depots is exceeding past years. Manu Export, which exported 25 trucks in the last season has already exported more than 30 trucks in the last 16 days. Pelden Export has already exported more than 50 trucks this season. Its owner, Lhamo said the main problem is finding Indian currency. “We even paid Nu 16,000 per truck initially,” she said.  Lhamo said the banks do not yet have enough Indian currency.

Another exporter, Gyem Tshering, said his export house is facing problems in paying workers who are from across the border and are demanding to be paid in Indian currency.  “We cannot go on paying 20 percent commission for Indian currency,” he said, adding that the government must help and find a solution.

However, exporters are satisfied with the current orange prices, which is hovering at between USD 10-13 per box.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing