The country’s white gold, clean energy derived from hydropower is not so clean if the energy trade is of any indication.

Bhutan exported 4.53 million units (MU) of electricity harnessed from its renewable natural resources, rivers, to India last year earning Nu 10.5B. While this is a decline compared with the 5.37 MU in 2017, which earned Nu 12B, it is attributed to poor hydrology.

On the flip side, the country imported Nu 7.9B worth of diesel and Nu 2.3B worth of petrol, almost negating the proceeds from the sale of electricity. In addition, the country also imported Nu 295M worth of electricity from India during the lean season and main source of electricity in India is from the thermal plants, coal.

Minus the loan repayment of about Nu 3B on average for the hydropower plants, Bhutan’s clean energy is negated by dirty energy import in its entirety.

Bhutan also imported petroleum bitumen worth Nu 850M, according to the Bhutan trade statistics, 2018. In addition, the country imported vehicle, automobile parts and accessories, whose import value touched more than Nu 6.7B.

In food trade, Bhutan imported rice worth Nu 1.6B and more than Nu 1.16B worth of meat and fish. Various form of beef and carcasses of cattle itself formed Nu about Nu 450M worth of import. The country also imported more than Nu 270M worth of pork.

Under Bhutan trade classification II, which include vegetable products such as certain roots and tubers, fruit and nuts, coffee, tea and spices, cereals, malt, among others, imports touch more than Nu 3.6B

Exports on the other hand is dominated by silicon valued at Nu 13.5B. This has been the country’s top export commodity for the last decade. This is followed by boulders, which is primarily exported to Bangladesh. In 2018, Bhutan exported boulders worth Nu 2.12B.

Export of cardamom and potatoes topped the 10 commodities for Bhutan for the last few years. This, however, did not make to the top 10 last year.

Trade imbalance

The country’s trade deficit has widened to Nu 30.2B last year from Nu 29.7B in 2017. While the export value increased to Nu 41.4B last year, import value has also increased to more than Nu 71.6B leaving behind a deficit of Nu 30.2B

In 2017, Bhutan exported goods worth Nu 37.3B and imported Nu 67B worth of goods, meaning that the country’s import value exceeded the value of its exports.

Bhutan was able to bring down its trade deficit from Nu 32B in the 2016 and 2015, according to Bhutan Trade statistics.

Electricity export played a crucial role in narrowing the trade deficit. Had it not been for electricity export, the country’s trade deficit could hover around Nu 40.5B in the red.

Bhutan’s trade balance with India has also increased to Nu 27B from Nu 22.35B in 2017.

Excluding India, the balance of trade with countries other than India is only Nu 2.2B, down from Nu 7.3B in 2017.

Tshering Dorji