Yangyel Lhaden

With the onset of vegetable season in the country and potential challenges anticipated in exporting the produces in the current pandemic situation, the agriculture ministry has issued an order to temporarily control import of commonly grown fruits and vegetables in the country.

The control measure is to balance the market in terms of availability and price. It is also to ensure that local produces are sold within the country without large quantities of vegetables and fruits going to waste.

The control measure excludes import of onion, tomato, bitter guard, okra (ladyfinger), apple, banana, pineapple, mango, orange, and pomegranate.

Earlier, when the ministry placed import restriction on selected vegetable products, there were doubts concerning the demand for local produce.

However, to keep up the availability of all produces, vendors can import other vegetables and fruits whenever there is a supply shortage of locally grown products. Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) will monitor the market supply and provide import permits to vendors when required.

The earlier imposed restriction on selected produce also saw hike in prices of local produce. To ensure that it does not happen again, a uniform price tag on vegetables and fruits will also be placed.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that this was not the time for vendors to concentrate on making profits and urged them to cooperate with officials.

Government institutions availing the government supported feeding programmes will also have to avail locally produced products from farmers, cooperatives and private vendors without having to follow prescribed competitive bidding procedures. However, bidding procedure should be followed for produces not available in the local market.

Bhutan’s import in 2019 increased by Nu 144 million compared to 2018. Meat, rice, diary products, fruits and vegetables were among the major food items imported from India.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said that with this measure in place, it would control the draining of rupee reserve during the pandemic and the money would be rolling within the country. He said that although the measure came in the wake of Covid-19, it should be followed and implemented henceforth.