Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Unable to export the areca nut (doma) they harvested before lockdown, some doma suppliers in Tading, Samtse are worried about losing their stock if lockdown continues.

They said that the stock is rotting by the day.

One of the suppliers, Yam Bahadur Ghalley has six metric tonnes (MT) of doma bought at more than Nu 400,000. If the stock is not sold off in time, it will be a “huge loss”.

“The lockdown in Samtse took us by surprise,” he said, adding he had a deal the same day the lockdown happened. 

“It is rotting now.”

Yam Bahadur Ghalley said he informed Tading gewog and the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) office in Samtse. However, no help has come until now, he said.

“FCBL is silent during this lockdown. They are asking us to contact the traders directly. If FCBL is not responding to our problem, who should we ask help from?”

Another supplier, Madan Tamang said he had 45 bags of doma harvested before the lockdown. The produce has now rotted and shrunk to about 35 bags, he claimed.

“We called all the relevant offices but there is no help,” he said.

On May 15, two days after the lockdown started in Samtse, the dzongkhag taskforce stated in a notification that the export of ginger, areca nut and other cash crops stocked at FCBL depot and from gewogs not falling within the complete lockdown areas shall be facilitated from May 17—subject to concurrence by the West Bengal government.

Tading Gup Jagat Bahadur Ghalley said the gewog has already informed the dzongkhag of the situation.

According to sources, about 25 truckloads of doma, which FCBL facilitated on May 12 across Chamarchi have also come across problems and have not yet been cleared. Since the problem is happening across the border there was not much FCBL could do.

This means suppliers will have to trade on their own, which may not be possible given the lockdown situation. The government has also not announced any buy-back scheme on doma and FCBL will not buy from the suppliers.

FCBL’s director for the department of corporate business, Dorji Tashi said there isn’t any procedural problem in terms of whether Bhutan can export doma or not.

“It is a product already enlisted and we are allowed to export,” he said.

In October 2020, India notified five Bhutanese agricultural products, which included doma (areca nut) as enlisted in their import list. Until then, doma, mandarin, apple, ginger and potato were not listed as a product India could import from Bhutan.

However, problems in exporting doma from Chamarchi continued.

Meanwhile, FCBL doesn’t export doma. It just provides the Bhutanese suppliers or exporters and buyers (traders from across the border) the platform for storage facilities and facilitates documentation.

FCBL charges the suppliers and buyers a three percent and 4.5 percent tax respectively for the services.

Suppliers or exporters directly exported to their counterparts across the border in Chamarchi. FCBL has been facilitating due to the pandemic, sources said.