The halt in export of cardamom to India is due to the failure in including the four exit points from Bhutan to India as ‘points of entry for import of plants and plant materials’ and not because of certification issue.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials said that the Phytosanitary Certificate (PSC) that the authority issues in the capacity of National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of Bhutan, would not be an issue if the four exit points are included in the list of entry points for import of plants and plant materials.

Export of cardamom to India has been affected since the Indian Goods and Services Tax (GST) commenced on July 1, 2017. Starting November 28, cardamom export to India has come to a complete stop.

This comes after the implementation of GST had the customs offices install the computerised system called ICEGATE in Jaigaon and other border towns that links trade to Bhutan.

BAFRA officials said that in a notification issued by the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare on November 18, 2003, the four entry points—Jaigoan (Phuentsholing), Chamurchi (Samtse), Hathisar/ Dathgirir (Gelephu) and Darranga (SamdrupJongkhar)  were not included as exit points from Bhutan to India as ‘points of entry for import of plants and plant materials and other Articles in India.’

Cardamom, oranges, apples, and plant seedlings among others fall under the plants and plant material. “Right now we only have issue with export of cardamom and not with other products. So we are not sure what the real issue is,” a BAFRA official said.

Although schedule VII of the same notification states that both large and small cardamom are in the list of plant and plant materials where imports are permissible on the basis of PSC issued by exporting country, the customs are not permitting the export.

As per the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), PSC issued by NPPO of a country (BAFRA) should be recognised by the other NPPO of other country.

“Both Bhutan and India are parties of the convention. But this is only in the agreement and the customs at the border are following the notification that requires the inclusion of the entry points in the list,” a BAFRA official said.

Although the entry points are not listed in the notification, as per the latest bi-lateral agreement on Trade and Commerce and Transit between RGoB and GoI on November 12, 2016, all four major entry points from Bhutan to India are included in the list of entry/exit points of the agreement.

“If the notification from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare include the four entry points in the list, the issue would be resolved,” the official said.

BAFRA officials said that the ministry of agriculture with BAFRA and department of trade (DoT) was organising a visit to New Delhi, India to carry out a technical level consultation meeting on the issue.

“We have secured the budget and we are ready. DoT would be conducting some clearances and we are also waiting for a response from the counterpart in India.”

Based on requests submitted by DoT to the foreign ministry, the department of bilateral affairs of foreign ministry has sent two notes to the Indian Embassy, Thimphu requesting for a consideration on the recognition issued by NPPO, Bhutan (BAFRA).

According to BAFRA, it received information on November 16 this year from the Royal Bhutan Embassy, New Delhi, that the Indian government had issued a notification on the issue. BAFRA is yet to receive a copy of the notification.

Meanwhile, in Phuentsholing, Shivalal Subedi of Bhutan Export Business Line said cardamom price would increase once the issue is resolved.

“Siliguri has been the only market,” he said, adding that there were parties from several other places willing to buy. “They keep asking us when the problem would get resolved.”

Today, the price of cardamom in Siliguri ranges between Nu 600 and Nu 650 a kilogramme. After the grading is done, the same cardamom is sold at better prices, Shivalal Subedi said.

Bhutan Exporter Association’s (BEA) general secretary Tshering Yeshi said they are expecting the government to resolve the cardamom problem soon.

“If things doesn’t get resolved soon it will affect orange export to India,” he said.

Tshering Yeshi said normally 90 percent of oranges are sold to Bangladesh but the upcoming Bangladesh election in December end could impact the market.

Then, India would remain the only market and without the quarantine certificate, the problem would start for oranges.

Phurpa Lhamo 

Additional reporting by Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing