MB Subba 

The government is planning to streamline the export of boulders to Bangladesh and recoup the “lost” revenue, the economic affairs minister, Loknath Sharma, has told Kuensel.

The major problems in the export of boulders include hassles in the transportation of boulders, low prices and the lack of a proper taxation system, according to him.

The economic affairs minister said that the country was “losing” revenue due to the issues.

Many exporters today are not able to bargain for the best price as the trading is not well organised, he said. Some of the exporters, he added, had to sell boulders to Indian brokers on the way.

“We are looking into how the trading of boulders can be done in a better way. There is a need to streamline the export of boulders,” the economic affairs minister said.

Lyonpo said that he had once thought about the possibility of doing it through State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Limited or having only four or five traders.

Doing so, he said, would help exporters establish links with major importers from Bangladesh and enjoy the economies of scale.

“The exporters could handle the hassles they face while transporting boulders themselves in a better way and could negotiate for better rates with importers,” he said.

However, he added that there were no plans to hand over boulder trading to the State although agencies like the Exporters Association of Bhutan are looking into how the system could be improved.

An exporter told Kuensel that the cost of boulders had fallen by up to 6 dollars for every tonne at Bangladeshi ports due to the evolving global economic situation.

He said that transporters also faced hassles and harassment from locals and authorities at various points on the route. “We have approached and requested the government to address such issues,” he said.

Exporters, however, did not reveal the selling prices of boulders.

While some dredging companies export boulders themselves, others sell them to exporters.

An exporter said that he had halted the export as dredging companies had hiked the prices of boulders. The transportation charge, he said, had also increased.

“The dredging company, which I used to buy boulders from, has increased the price from Nu 450 to Nu 550 per tonne,” he said, adding that the business was no more profitable for him.

He added said that transportation charges had increased to Nu 1,950 from Nu 850 in 2020.

Boulders are one of the major exports of Bhutan.

In 2020, Bhutan exported boulders worth Nu 1.87 billion (B), according to official data. Boulder was the second most exported item after ferrosilicon.