Nima | Gelephu

The Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industry (BCCI) office in Gelephu conducted a three-day-long workshop for 30 exporters from Sarpang to help them gain important skills and knowledge related to the business of export.

The workshop ended yesterday in Gelephu.

There are more than 30 exporters registered with BCCI today, exporting boulders, betel nut, cardamom, oranges, and vegetables to India during peak seasons. Boulders and cardamom are mostly exported to Bangladesh.

The workshop focused on improving export businesses and standardising export management among the private sector in Sarpang. Participants were briefed on the banking system, trade agreements, trade routes, and documentation required in export trade.

BCCI’s vice president, Kamal Pradhan, said that export management was the need of the hour, as the country prepares to revive its economy. “The economic slowdown is at 10 percent.”

He said the country is working to achieve four percent growth by 2022. “This can be achieved through a strong and dedicated team of export entrepreneurs. We are looking at serious and dedicated business houses.”

Kamal Pradhan also said the main purpose of export management is to secure export orders and ensure timely delivery of goods as per agreed norms of quality and other specifications.

He said that exports have declined since 2018. “Exports worth USD 610 million were traded in 2018, USD 590 million in 2019, and USD 430 million in 2020. Boulders valued at USD 116 million and betel nut worth USD 141 million were exported in 2021.”

According to the vice president, language, high risk, government control, the difference in laws, difficulty in payment, custom duty, and lack of information are the major hurdles in export.

With the start of the boulder and aggregate export to India and Bangladesh in 2018 from Gelephu, the export of riverbed materials has been among the top five most exported items in the country for the past four years.

However, the export business could not proceed as expected due to overloading and under-declaration issues in 2019, extortions along Indian highways, unreliable trade routes, and the restrictions from the pandemic hampered the progress.

The issues of overloading and under-declaration have been resolved and more exporters have realised the importance of the Bhutan Export Association (BEA).

But according to the officials from BCCI in Gelephu, the exporters lack essential skills and qualities required in the export business.

BCCI’s regional secretary, Kelzang, said there are many exporters today, but they lack the required skills and qualities. “They must know about banking transactions, trade agreements in place, and international customs regulations. Some exporters are getting involved in this type of business for the first time.”

He said exporters wouldn’t be vulnerable to harassment and extortions along the trade route if they know the regulations well. “Exporters couldn’t take advantage of trade agreements because they were unaware of them. Moreover, they need to come together and take a united stand while dealing with importers.”

The officials said that those involved in export-related businesses did not understand the importance of the BEA, as the association was new to many exporters in Gelephu.

“The only work done by local exporters was to buy riverbed materials from the National Resources Development Corporation Ltd. (NRDCL) and sell them to the dealers across the border. This was what they thought export was,” an official said.

Officials from BCCI said that the export of boulders from Gelephu couldn’t pick up because the trade route that was agreed for use, NH-51, was closed to Bhutanese trucks and consignments. “There were incidents of extortion and obstruction from the public while using other routes,” Kelzang said.

He said that the pandemic came as a blessing to the exporters. “Required infrastructure was put in place, and the exporters and the gaps between the BEA and exporters were reduced.”

The BCCI is also in process of associating with the North East Federation on International Trade (NEFIT) in India to help local exporters receive required assistance along the Indian highways.

The BCCI office in Gelephu plans to provide a similar workshop to the exporters on the topic of trade negotiations in the future.

Edited by Tashi Dema