…Farmers and exporters could see the worst season

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Mandarin orange farmers and exporters in the country could likely face a difficult season this year if Bangladesh decides not to import.

As a measure to save its dwindling foreign currency exchange reserves, Bangladesh has restricted many import categories.

In the case of mandarin oranges, one of the most exported cash crops from Bhutan, Bangladesh importers have not yet been able to provide Letter of Credits (LC) without which exporters in Phuentsholing have not been able to export.

An orchard owner, Pavitra from Lokchina, said the oranges are ready for harvest and export.

“But it is likely we will not be able to sell it off to the exporters due to the LC problem…India is the only market.”

The Indian market, however, is already flooded with domestic production.

An owner of one of the biggest exporters in Phuentsholing, Sonam Tobgay, said they are waiting for the LC. “There are a few with small LCs in the market. But most don’t have LCs. Bangladesh wants to save dollar reserves.”

He said: “Our suppliers are calling us time and again. But importers in Bangladesh do not have LC approvals. This is not good news for the season.”

Sonam Tobgay has constructed a depot but hasn’t been able to export the fruit.

Peling Exports’ proprietor, Pemba, said that the export season usually starts by November 25. “This season, we have not been able to export…The few LCs are ones approved before November.”

Mandarin oranges and apples are the two top export cash crops from Bhutan.

The exporter says India is not the best market this year.

BBPL to make packing crates

Exporters in Phuentsholing said that the government has given opportunity to the wood industries in the country to manufacture quality crates.

Some exporters say that there is a severe shortage of crates.

Pemba said that even if there are LCs, there would be a shortage of crates in the market.

Bhutan Board Products Limited (BBPL) will now venture into manufacturing medium density fiberboard crates as an alternative. BBPL inaugurated the product yesterday.

According to the BBPL management, the boxes will be made from the offcuts and factory rejects that are currently being recycled in the boilers at the factory or used as pallets while transporting particle board and furniture to various markets.

“BBPL considers that putting the offcuts and factory rejects to a good use as a by-product will be a win-win situation for both BBPL and the exporters,” BBPL CEO Sherab Namgay said. “The primary reason for entering into this segment is to bridge a huge demand-supply gap.”

According to BBPL, the preliminary assessment suggests that the total demand for such wooden boxes is in the range of 300,000 to 400,000 boxes per orange season. The price of a box will be Nu 90. BBPL also has 25,000 confirmed orders in hand as of today.

BBPL crates comply with ISPM 15 standards and other regulatory requirements. The boxes are of superior quality as compared to the wooden ones, BBPL CEO Sherab Namgay said.