Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Although the Government of India (GoI) approved potato export from Bhutan after it listed the produce in its import regulation on October 16, export of potatoes from Phuentsholing is yet to pick up.

There are still hiccups that exporters from Bhutan and importers in Jaigaon face. In the meantime, potatoes are rotting in Phuentsholing.

Some are saying the potatoes have to be washed and some say the produce should not have soil on it.

The problem of export of potatoes to India, via Jaigaon (or any other place), which was put on halt more than a week ago, was solved on October 16 after the GoI approved the import.

Along with potato, areca nut, orange, apple and ginger were also sanctioned for export from Bhutan to India as all these produce have been listed in India’s import list from Bhutan.

The Embassy of India in Thimphu notified of the approval, which came as good news to thousands of Bhutanese farmers and importers in Jaigaon.

However, traders in Phuentsholing and Jaigaon are still facing the problem.

One dealer in Phuentsholing, Singye Wangdi, said his produce was rotting.

“Only a few truckloads of potatoes have gone to India so far,” he said, adding he was worried that all his potatoes could rot in a few more days.

Singye Wangdi said that he even tried sending 130 packets of potatoes from Samtse yesterday but only 40 packets could be sold. Remaining 90 packets had rotted.

Another exporter, Sonam Tobgay, said that the potato should be without soil and water.

“They are asking for additional details in the BAFRA certificate, which is as per the rule.”

Sonam Tobgay said that his importers had intimated that they need additional “free from quarantine weed seeds, soil and other plant debris” details in the BAFRA certificate. Talks were going on across the border and the export can come to normalcy soon, he said.

Sonam Tobgay has about 100 metric tonnes (MT) of potatoes. And the produce at the go-down has already started to rot.

The marketing chief with the department of agricultural marketing and cooperatives (DAMC) said that nobody seemed to know the reason for sure.

“There are numerous reasons being mentioned by different importers,” he said. “I contacted several importers, and majority of them are pointing to several reasons for not being able to import our potatoes.”

He said that the Jaigaon importers were importing without export-import licence, which now the customs are regulating. Jaigaon customs have also found discrepancies in the invoice, which means that the invoices are undervalued in both quantity and rates, he added.

Meanwhile, the consignments also require a “fit for human consumption” certificate from Bhutan side. Jaigaon authorities have also not completed establishing the plant quarantine facilities as of now.

“When inquiring with the importers, some mentioned that authorities in Jaigaon are getting ready with a plant quarantine facility to abide by the recent instruction received from their authorities,” Sonam Tobgay said.

If the potatoes are washed, the shelf life of potatoes will decrease leading to deterioration of the quality, an official involved in the export business said.