Thukten Zangpo

Bhutan’s exports to countries other than India increased by 8 percent last year compared to the previous year, lower than the levels before the pandemic.

Although Bhutan’s export value to other countries rose to Nu 8.33 billion last year from Nu 7.7 billion in 2022, it was still lower than the Nu 9.24 billion recorded in 2018.

According to data from the Department of Revenue and Customs, Bhutan’s trade deficit, excluding India, shrank to Nu 13.71 billion last year from Nu 26 billion the year before. This reduction was primarily due to a decrease in imports from other countries, dropping by Nu 12.3 billion to Nu 21.41 billion last year.

The increase in export revenue is vital, especially as imports rise and reserves shrink. Bhutan earns Indian rupees from exports to India, while exports to other countries bring in USD. 

Last year, Bhutan’s main export, ferrosilicon, decreased to Nu 13.77 billion from Nu 16.22 billion the previous year, showing a decline of Nu 2.45 billion or 15 percent.

On the flip side, dolomite exports saw an improvement, rising to Nu 3.7 billion from Nu 2.84 billion in the same period, marking an increase of Nu 858.92 million.

Despite challenges with the export process through West Bengal’s online vehicle facilitation system, Suvidha, boulder exports to Bangladesh surged by 45 percent to Nu 2.36 billion last year from Nu 1.62 billion the previous year.

Excluding India, Bangladesh stands out as the top destination for Bhutan’s exports. Last year, Bhutan’s exports to Bangladesh increased by Nu 364.42 million, reaching Nu 5.03 billion. 

This growth was primarily driven by a substantial increase in boulder exports, which rose to Nu 2.34 billion from Nu 1.63 billion the previous year. However, the export of pebbles, gravel, broken or crushed stone decreased to Nu 704.79 million from Nu 1.1 billion during the same period. 

This decline was offset by increased exports of mandarin and oranges, amounting to Nu 525.46 million last year compared to Nu 175.33 million the previous year. Additionally, Bhutan exports apples, cardamom, green tea, fruit juices, and other minerals to Bangladesh.

Next to Bangladesh, Italy ranks as Bhutan’s second-largest export destination, with exports totaling Nu 1.53 billion last year, down 12 percent from Nu 1.74 billion the previous year. Bhutan only exports ferrosilicon to Italy.

Exports to Nepal, which include gypsum, incense, tableware, kitchenware, and woven fabrics, saw an increase to Nu 714.38 million last year from Nu 462.43 million the previous year.

Furthermore, Bhutan exported ferrosilicon, incense, paintings, drawings, and handicrafts worth Nu 297.59 million to China last year.

Other export destinations include Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Poland, where Bhutan exported ferrosilicon with export figures recording at Nu 120.28 million, Nu 94.32 million, Nu 40.96 million, and Nu 20.89 million respectively.

The United Arab Emirates imported Nu 18.91 million worth of ferrosilicon, along with other imports like cordyceps and statues totaling Nu 26.55 million. Vietnam imported Nu 28.84 million worth of green tea, cordyceps, alcohol, and other products.

Bhutan also exported various goods to Australia, including cordyceps, black tea, pepper, pasta, lemon oil, incense, bamboo articles, and textile materials, amounting to Nu 3.76 million.

Additionally, Singapore imported green tea, quinoa, cordyceps, perfumes, paintings, and handicrafts worth Nu 19.76 million last year from Bhutan.

To boost export value, the government has pledged to promote exports through strategic marketing efforts, establishing sales outlets regionally and internationally, and enhancing linkages. 

Plans also include instituting regular cargo flights to facilitate exports, developing cold storage facilities, warehouses, and auction yards in the Dzongkhags. 

Samtse is earmarked for development as a Special Economic Zone for manufacturing and export, and efforts will be made to obtain necessary certifications for the export of farm and agriculture produce through direct engagement with other countries.