Trade: Despite frequent strikes in the bordering Indian states and Bangladesh, mandarin exports have already exceeded last year’s figures.

As of last week, around 15,000 MT of mandarin has been exported to Bangladesh since November, last year.

About 12,791 MT of mandarin was exported to Bangladesh between the end of 2013 and early 2014.

Bhutan Exporters Association (BEA) officials said mandarin exports have been going smoothly these days with the situation improving in the border towns.

The market in Bangladesh, according to BEA, is not favourable.

“Despite the poor market about 25 to 30 truckloads of mandarin leave Phuentsholing everyday,” BEA general secretary Tshering Yeshi said.

The poor market situation is attributed to the political unrest in Bangladesh. BEA officials said cost of transportation also increased as a result.

Mandarin exporters said transportation cost from the Bangladeshi border town of Burimari to Dhaka increased almost threefold this export season. During the last export season, exporters paid about Nu 20,000. Dhaka is around 485 km from Burimari.

Burimari is the most active trade route used by Bhutan to export horticulture and mineral products to Bangladesh. It is also used for the import of garments and melamine products. It is about 132 km from Phuentsholing to Burimari.

“As transporters have to take risk owing to the political unrest, they started to demand extra,” Tshering Yeshi said. “Exporters in Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar has been affected more with frequent strikes in Assam this season.”

The floor price this season has been fixed at USD 10 for keel (small sized mandarin) and USD 13 for meel (large sized) just as previous years.

Exporters said although mandarin yield has been good this season, the poor market and frequent strikes in the beginning affected them in terms of earnings. The increase in transportation came as another hindrance.

Despite the low yield last export season, exporters said they earned more.

“Last export season it was better in terms of earnings but this time with more yield, there is more competition that further affected earnings,” exporter Nim Tshering of Druk Phuensum exports said.

Exporters said owing to the good yield, they could export more consignment this year although they recorded a drop in revenue. Just as the frequent strikes started to improve in the border towns, exporters said the market started to show some improvement but the sudden rise in transportation came as a blow.

The transportation cost, however, dropped last week with vehicles ferrying mandarin from Burimari to Dhaka now provided a security escort by the Bangladeshi government.

“It now dropped to about Nu 50,000 from Nu 60,000 to Nu 80,000 charged earlier,” another exporter said. “It will not drop further as the Bangladeshi transporters have colluded.”

Despite several issues affecting mandarin export every year, exporters said they don’t have a choice but to export mandarin to Bangladesh.

“It’s time the government explore other markets beyond Bangladesh,” another exporter said.

Penden exports’ proprietor Sangay Penjor said he has exported about 100 truckloads of mandarin so far.

“Until the end of the export season, I will be exporting about 50 more truckloads,” he said, adding for him, market was better this season despite the poor market.

The export season that began since November last year is expected to end by February 15.

From 23,198 MT of mandarin exported to Bangladesh in 2008, exports in 2009 and 2010 declined by about 15 and 30 percent respectively, records with BEA show. By 2011, it picked up to 21,517 MT while in 2012 about 23,721 MT was exported, the highest in the recent years.

However, exports dropped drastically to 12,791 MT in 2013, the lowest since 2003.

Similarly, in terms of earnings the highest revenue was fetched in 2012 at about USD 10.5M. In 2013, revenue earnings from mandarin export dropped by almost half of the previous year. Exporters earned about USD 5.6M in 2013.

By Kinga Dema, P/ling