Nima | Gelephu

Gelephu mini dry port near Bhutan-India gate counted about 25 trucks in the past three days after the private vendors started to export potatoes from Gelephu this week.

But the shortage of loaders at the port and frequent rain kept the drivers waiting for about three days to move the consignments to Indian trucks.

Tshering Phuntsho from Phobjikha said that proper facilitation at the dry port would make the trade swift and convenient for all drivers. “I had to wait for three days and some trucks get to load their consignments immediately. The shortage of loaders made the situation worse.”

He said that there was no proper handwashing, restroom and other basic amenities at the port.

Sangay Dorji from Wangdue said that it was difficult to understand how things were done at the port. “A token system like in Phuentsholing would make the trade more convenient. A different vendor comes in between and we have to wait for days.”

He said that the opening of the export route from Gelephu would help ease traffic congestion in Phuentsholing in the future. “Farmers are starting to produce potatoes now. There would be more trucks coming.

“Opening export from here would be a sensible move. Moreover, the distance required to travel to Phuentsholing and Gelephu is the same.”

Gelephu Thromde is developing two mini dry ports near the border gate. Currently, the import and export shipment is done at the port located right next to the border gate. Another dry port spreads over five and a half acres of land, a few metres away from the border gate.

Sarpang Dzongdag Karma Galay said the dry port would be fully equipped with the necessary infrastructure. A temporary resting place, handwashing stands, and temporary washrooms for truckers are being planned.

“Trucks have started to come from central Bhutan and there is an increased traffic,” said Karma Galay.

The dzongkhag has identified 50 young volunteers who would be working at the port once the required infrastructures are in place.

“We don’t want them to come now because there is no shelter for them. After they start working at the port, we don’t want them to go back. We are developing a containment centre,” said dzongdag.

The dzongkhag has not been able to provide a containment facility for 43 loaders from India who are engaged in loading consignments at the port. They will also be working under a containment facility once the port is fully equipped.

Meanwhile, farmers in the central region have stopped selling potatoes to the Food Corporation of Bhutan. Since the start of the online auction from Gelephu on September 9, the corporation in Gelephu could export only 47.7 metric tonnes to potatoes.