… GoI to supply 10,000 litres of fertilizer

Dechen Dolkar 

The government of India (GoI) has given a one-year extension of exemption on the export of potatoes from Bhutan to India.

India’s ministry of commerce and industry notified on July 4 that the import of potatoes from Bhutan is permitted freely, without any license up to June 30, 2023.

The export of potatoes from Bhutan was stopped in 2020. Temporary exemptions to export were provided by the GoI in 2020 and then in 2021, which expired on June 30, this year.

A trade official said that despite not getting the exemption for perpetuity for the export of potatoes, the government remains thankful to the GoI for the exemption.

The official said that this is a testimony to the excellent bilateral relations that is shared by the two countries and even with the challenges faced; India always finds a way to accommodate the needs of Bhutan.

Potatoes are primary agricultural produce and thousands of farmers across Bhutan who depend on this crop as a means of livelihood. Similarly, there are numerous traders, entrepreneurs and consumers in India who depend on Bhutanese potatoes.

The trade of potatoes has been ongoing for decades and immensely enhances the people-to-people interaction between two countries for mutual benefit.

The average annual export of Bhutanese potatoes is around 20,000MT and account for around 0.04 percent of India’s domestic production.

The trade official said that Bhutanese potato export is not at all substantial and will also not affect India’s domestic market. On the contrary, it augments India’s domestic supply, particularly in seasons where there is low production and costs of local potatoes are high.

“The government of Bhutan requested GoI to exempt Bhutan from the import restrictions outlined in the Import Policy 2017 for import of Potato for perpetuity based on the aforementioned reasons and on account of our excellent bilateral relations,” the official said.

Similarly, GoI will also be supplying 10,000 litres of Nano Urea or Nano Nitrogen Fertilizer (Liquid) and 111,000MT of coal annualy to Bhutan.

According to a press release from the Embassy of India, fertilizers will be supplied through the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) at a special concessional rate.

It states that this is intended to benefit the Bhutanese farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, both for domestic consumption and the export market.

The press release also states that the GoI will be supplying coal to Bhutan through Coal India Limited (CIL), to meet the requirement of the coal-dependent industry in Bhutan and allow for unhindered supply and export of related products to India.

“It is hoped that the supply of coal from India will greatly alleviate the current shortage of coal in Bhutan, which has an impact on cement production and on construction activities in Bhutan,” the press release said.

In 2020-21, the GoI had formally notified 12 additional agri-exports of Bhutan including potatoes in the plant quarantine order of India, thereby allowing formal market access to these Bhutanese products in India.

In order to facilitate bilateral trade of agri-products, India opened a new plant quarantine office at Jaigaon in 2020.

The press release states that despite challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and disruptions in the global supply chains, India has been extending the fullest cooperation and support to Bhutan in order to ensure the smooth movement of commodities during this period.

“Our close trade and economic ties are a reflection of the exceptionally close and friendly relations between India and Bhutan that have existed over decades. In view of this special relationship, notwithstanding global supply chain disruptions and shortages of various commodities, India has decided to accommodate Bhutan’s special requests,” the embassy’s press release states.

Meanwhile, the trade official said that the government of Bhutan continues to regularly follow up on the export of areca nuts freely without any restrictions to India.

“We have been informed that the matter is still under examination by the relevant authorities in India and that they will revert soon with a favourable outcome for Bhutan on account of the excellent bilateral relations and as the amount is also very small,” the official said.

The GoI also recently revised the import policy of India to allow the import of fresh wholly produced ginger from Bhutan, with effect from May 19, 2022.