… Indian customs officials ask for plant quarantine certificate

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Customs officials in India stopped trucks carrying potatoes from Bhutan without a plant quarantine certificate (PQC), which has affected business for potato exporters and bidders in Samdrupjongkhar.

Exporters said that they have not been able to export potatoes from the Samdrupjongkhar Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) auction yard for over a week. “It has severely affected our business.”

One of the exporters, Kinga Dhendup Import and Export proprietor Tashi Tenzin, said that it has been about four days since the Indian customs officials stopped his trucks from transporting potatoes because they do not have a PQC.

“We did not need to obtain a PQC before, because we had a certificate from Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA),” he said.

Tashi Tenzin stated that he would have exported around 20 truckloads of potatoes in about a week’s time if the issue had not arisen. He has reportedly exported more than 40 truckloads, and has more than 30 truckloads of potatoes left to export.

He said that he paid Nu 25 a kilogram for big red potatoes, Nu 19 for medium, and Nu 14 for small red potatoes. Meanwhile, he exports the big potatoes at a price of Nu 25.50 to Nu 26, medium at Nu 19.5 to Nu 20 and small potatoes at Nu 14.5 to Nu 15.

The exporters and bidders said they have obtained all the documents previously required by Indian customs from the authorities in Bhutan. “But these documents do not carry the weight they did before. Who will go to India and get a PQC?”

Exporters and bidders said that they contacted officials at the Royal Bhutan Consulate in Guwahati, India. However, officials stated that they cannot intervene, as it is an issue related to requirements of the Indian government and not the government of Bhutan.

FCB complex manager, Sawdev Koirala, said the issue started on September 1 because Indian customs officials had warned the bidders that a PQC from India is now required to export potatoes.

He said that although the government of India had approved the free trade without a license and did not mention the PQC requirement, Indian customs officials still stopped the trucks. “We are helpless and do not know what to do.”

“It has not only adversely affected business, but will also affect the growers. The government and concerned authorities should intervene and address the issues as soon as possible,” said Sawdev Koirala.

The FCBL has exported more than 952 metric tonnes of potatoes so far.

Edited by Tshering Palden