In what could be a major distress to the ferrosilicon manufacturers of Pasakha industrial estate, their export consignments to third countries are getting stolen and adulterated en route to Kolkata, India. Recurrent instances have been reported, the industrialists say.

This has brought the export to a halt since transporters are reluctant from ferrying the consignment, industrialists say. The transporters have also not been able to lodge complaints because the customs bonded seals are allegedly tampered and replaced with fake seals.

Association of Bhutan Industries (ABI) office believes that this is an organised racket happing mainly along Moregram, Rampurhat, Suiri, Dubrajpur, Durgapur, Panagar, and Dankuni.

Kuensel was informed that one of the industries had recently arranged 10 people and a back up vehicle to escort the consignment to Kolkata port. Industrialists feel such arrangements require huge expenses and make the business less competitive if the trend continues.

As they are unable to dispatch the materials, ferrosilicon industries have stocks at the factory industrialists say. This is causing the industries to fail their order deadlines and lose credibility among their clients, especially in the west, as they do not believe that such things would happen.

Druk Wang Ferro Alloys CEO Chimmi Dorji said, everybody is affected.

“It has become rampant,” he said, adding that this is not a small case where people are hiding and doing it.

They are manipulating all the consignments that are sent, which means whoever is doing this has a big capacity, Chimi Dorji said.

The ferrosilicon are sent in a one tonne bag, which people cannot lift but miscreants are still able to unload the whole truck, open all the bags, take out the good materials, and fill the bags with sand and cement. Although they are not taking all the materials, when cement and sand are filled, the remaining materials are also spoiled.

In the last consignment, Druk Wang’s 45 metric tonnes (MT) of ferrosilicon were adulterated, its officials said. One MT is worth Nu 100,000.

“We have written a letter to the Association of Bhutanese Industries (ABI) but nothing has happened,” Chimi Dorji said.

It other instances, Bhutan Silicon Metal Private Limited (BSMPL) lost two MT of ferrosilicon headed to Belgium on August 5 this year. The materials were stolen and replaced with stone and dust, BSMPL management had written to ABI.

In another case, a packet of one MT of ferrosilicon belonging to Druk Ferro Alloys Limited (DFAL) was mixed with more than 100kg fines. The company managed to sieve and dispatch the consignment. In another case, DFAL had caught the driver, the culprit who adulterated 1.5MT of ferrosilicon with fines. Two similar cases were also reported with DFAL.

KK Steel Private Limited also received a complaint from their overseas client of not receiving the ordered magnesium ferrosilicon. It was mixed with dust and sand. The company then held 81.50MT of their export bound consignment at Kolkata port to check where it was found that the consignment was mixed with sand. A hired representative from RICBL was also present during the checking.

Ugen Ferro Alloys Private Limited also had gone through the same problem. More than 300MT of ferrosilicon were adulterated, it has been learnt.

Ferrosilicon is the single largest commodity being exported from Bhutan with nine manufacturers in the country producing over 130,000 tonnes each year. Sales of this product contribute a major chunk of Indian Rupee and foreign currency income for the country.

With the exports disturbed, industrialists say that this could hamper country’s trade figures as Bhutan has seen increasing trade deficit this year. A country experiences a trade deficit or negative trade balance if its import bill is more than its export earning.

ABI president Pema Tenzin said the ABI has already received a lot of complaints.

“About five letters have already come in the ABI office,” he said. “Stopping this racket is becoming a major problem for us.”

The consignments that are going are well sealed and packed and to manipulate those is not an easy task. Unorganised group of people cannot carry such tasks.

ABI is approaching the Consul General office in Kolkata to see how they can help in solving the matter. A letter has also been drafted and would be soon sent to the CG office.

All industries have export order and they are time-bound because it takes about 40 to 45 days for the product to reach the market destination. Once the consignments cannot move from Bhutan, the whole shipping program is affected.

“The entire brand image of Bhutan is being lost,” Pema Tenzin said. “A customer sitting somewhere in Europe is not going to understand the racketing that is happening somewhere on the highway in India.”

The loss is not only in monetary terms, but also in terms of credibility of the Bhutanese suppliers, he said.

As the industrialists are anticipating government intervention, they are also exploring the feasibility of exporting through Chittagong port in Bangladesh and has requested ABI to take it up with the government.

Rajesh Rai