Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

One of the major mandarin oranges exporting dzongkhags, Samtse is yet to start the business as exporters are unable to import packing (wooden) boxes from India.

The customs officials across the border in Chamarchi have asked the Indian exporters for the phytosanitary certificate from the National Plant Protection Office. The certificate is needed to comply with the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measure—which requires the exporting country to fumigate wooden materials, which is more than six mm thickness and issue the certificate.

Adhikari Export’s proprietor in Samtse, Dadiram Adhikari said the exporters had planned to export the oranges beginning on December 5.

“But we haven’t been able to do so,” he said. “This is a very big problem.”

Dadiram said that there were two truckloads of packing boxes across the border unable to cross in absence of the certificate.

The exporter also said that the orange export would fail if this issue was not solved in the coming week. The fruits have already started to drop.

“Luckily, we didn’t pluck the fruits from the trees. If we had, they would have rotted away,” he said, adding that the plucking is done after 24-48 hours of preparing the packing boxes.

The proprietor of BPGS Export in Tashichholing (Sipsu) said that he was left clueless.

“If we don’t export within these 10 days, half of the fruits will be wasted,” he said. “This is the peak season and fruits have already started dropping. We need help.”

Meanwhile, exporters said that they have informed the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Authority (BAFRA) and Bhutan Exporters Association. The matter has also been taken to the government.

The marketing chief with the department of agricultural marketing and cooperatives (DAMC), Yonten Gyamtsho said they have tried several means to get the import of the boxes through.

“We tried to informally consult with the counterparts and requested,” he said.

Since BAFRA regulates and monitors if the Indian exporters have the phytosanitary certificates, DAMC also requested that BAFRA would not ask for the certificate from them and there wouldn’t be any problem.

The counterpart officials asked for a letter from the agriculture ministry highlighting that BAFRA, the regulating agency, would not seek the certificate. The import was still not allowed despite handing the letter from the ministry.

“For now, the agriculture minister has written to the foreign minister to take the matter on a government-to-government level,” he said.

In Phuentsholing, the marketing chief also said that they tried to sort the problem by getting the packing boxes locally. However, the local box suppliers have limited resources and couldn’t produce as many boxes as required.

“Packing boxes that we procured from local sources are about to exhaust,” he said.

Orange export from Phuentsholing started on December 3 and eight truckloads have been exported until yesterday.

DAMC’s marketing chief Yonten Gyamtsho said that it was not yet time for the oranges to drop. However, within a few weeks, the fruits will start falling.