Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

India has allowed the import of green (raw) areca nut from Bhutan without the minimum import price (MIP), which was Nu 251 per kg.

Bhutan can now export 17,000 metric tonnes (MT) of fresh areca nuts to the Indian market every year.

The department of commerce, ministry of commerce and industry, India announced this policy change on September 28.

However, this is allowed only through Jaigaon Land Customs Station (LCS).

The notification said, “Import of 17,000MT of fresh (green) areca nut without MIP condition shall be allowed from Bhutan every year through LCS Jaigaon, subject to valid registration certificate issued by DGFT.”

Over the last few years, farmers and exporters in Phuentsholing and Samtse faced tremendous pressure while exporting fresh areca nuts across the borders. In 2021, tonnes of areca nuts were damaged in Samtse as exporters were unable to export.

This is because the Indian government didn’t allow traders to import areca nuts if the price is below Nu 251 per kg. Almost all Bhutanese farmers sell the areca nuts fresh, without any value addition. While farmers sell at Nu 35 to 40 per kg to traders in Phuentsholing, the export price increases to about Nu 40 to 45 per kg.

An exporter in Phuentsholing said that the policy change is a welcome news for the farmers and exporters.

“Exporters and farmers in Phuentsholing must celebrate this news,” he said, adding that both Bhutanese and Indian governments would benefit immensely. “However, it must be done systematically and the payment should be done through proper channels.”

The businessman also said that there is always a middleman in this export business and pointed out that the government should try to connect the farmers and exporters directly to the outlets that use areca nuts for various purposes.