Orange trucks held at Burimari

A broken formalin test machine has halted the fruits at the India-Bangladesh border since last week 

Export: About five truckloads of oranges, worth Nu 1.2 million exported from the country have been denied entry into Bangladesh from the India-Bangladesh border Burimari customs house since December 4.

The exporters in Phuentsholing have also not sent any consignment for the fifth day today since the Bangladesh customs detained the fruit load for requirement of “formalin test”, a test that assesses the chemical content in a fruit.

Bhutan Exporters Association (BEA) general secretary Tshering Yeshey said the customs officials had stopped the mandarin from being transported further because the formalin test machine is not working.

“It is not advisable that the oranges are kept at halt just for the formalin test,” the general secretary said, explaining that mandarin is perishable by nature and required immediate delivery. “It is not our fault that the machine is not functioning and we cannot wait.”

Tshering Yeshey said that the matter has been forwarded to the Bhutan Embassy office in Bangladesh. However, nothing concrete has materialized.

The general secretary said the customs officials “very well knew that Bhutanese oranges, in fact, do not even need formalin test.”

BEA office also mentioned that Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) had the capacity to conduct formalin tests and certify the produces. Due to accreditation of BAFRA, the Bangladesh customs at Burimari, however, does not allow the certification.

Bhutanese fruits have to get formalin test at Burimari before they get transported to Bangladesh.

The association has alerted local exporters to withheld their mandarin until the customs re-install their machines and start testing and sending the produce to Bangladesh.

“It is also important that the general public know of this, especially, the orange growers,” Tshering Yeshey said.

BEA general secretary, meanwhile, said that the matter might get solved today. However, there is nothing the BEA has received formally.

The association also feels there is need for government to look into another matter, which has a direct impact on the country’s export to Bangladesh. With the increase in trucks from the country, especially, the export of boulder during peak season, more than 200 trucks enter Bangladesh from the country alone.

However, the port of Burimari in Bangladesh, allows only 200 trucks, including Indian trucks. The association last month in coordination with the customs officials from Phuentsholing arranged with the Bangladesh customs to an intake of 300 Bhutanese trucks due to increased exports of boulders.

However, this is just the interim measure, Tshering Yeshey said, explaining the government should look into it, so there would not be any problem in the future.

Timing of the customs office in the borders of India and Bangladesh, which has a direct impact on the Bhutanese exporters have also been resolved in the last meeting between the respective counterparts.

Changrabandha, the Indian side of the customs opens for clearance from 8am-6pm, while the Bangladesh customs operates from 10am-5pm.

“This problem has been solved now,” the BEA secretary general Tshering Yeshey said. “The agreement came following help from the Bhutan Embassy in Bangladesh.”

The customs office will now open at 9am.

Rajesh Rai,  Phuentsholing

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