With both produce and price increased this year, mandarin exporters and growers in Samdrupjongkhar are expecting a better business this season.

Mandarin export began last month and exporters have sold more than 30 truckloads of oranges to Bangladesh until last week.

An export house, Druk Phuensum Import and Export house (DPIEH), exported more than three truckloads of oranges to Bangladesh from its depot in Samdrupjongkhar earlier this month.

The exporter, Melam Tenzin, said the production and quality this season would be 70 to 80 percent more compared to that of last year. “Although the harvest keeps fluctuating, we heard it is good this time.”

The starting price for a box of meel (big) is Nu 900, an increase from Nu 800 last year and Nu 700 for keel (small) from Nu 600.

The floor price has also increased to USD 15 for a meel from USD 14 in 2017. The floor price for a keel per box was revised to USD 12 from USD 11 last year.

Melam Tenzin said since there is more produce and good quality this time, he is expecting to export about 200 truckloads of oranges to Bangladesh from Samdrupjongkhar depot. “I could not export more than 60 truckloads last year.”

Sherab Thuendrel Export’s owner, Sherab Zangpo, said he is doing the business for the first time but has 10 years experience of working with orange exporters.

“The business will be a loss if we don’t get USD 18 for meel and USD 15 for keel from Bangladesh,” Sherab Zangpo said.

He said that almost all farmers own orange orchards but Gomdar and Samdrupcholing have the highest production in the dzongkhag.

Rinwang Export’s owner said he has exported more than 10 truckloads of oranges earlier this month and expects to export more than 100 trucks from Samdrupjongkhar and Nganglam in Pemagatshel this time.

Meanwhile, orange exporters said that their main challenges were paying illegal taxes along the Indian highways. “It would help if the concerned authorities could talk with the Indian counterparts and resolve the issue because we have to pay around Nu 2,000 a truck sometimes,” an exporter said.

The other challenge is that Bhutanese exporters have to face competition with oranges from India in the market.

Bhutan exported 4,959 metric tonnes (MT) of mandarin to Bangladesh and India in the 2015-2016 season, a drop from the 2014-2015 season’s 34,569MT. In the 2016-2017 season, more than 40,000MT was exported.

Report with the Bhutan Exporters Association shows that Bhutan had exported mandarin worth USD 88.9 million from 2001 until 2015.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar