Chimi Dema  | Gelephu

With about 90 trucks lying idle for almost two weeks following the closure of border gates, exporters and transporters of boulders in Gelephu are worried about repaying loans.

Since the export of riverbed materials from Gelephu came to a halt, many trucks are found in garages and some in the automobile workshops.

It was learnt that transporters have to pay loan installments ranging between Nu 40,000 and Nu 60,000 a month for a truck.

A group of exporters have to pay an equated monthly installment (EMI) ranging between Nu 0.5 million (M) and 0.6M for loan. While others have to pay an  EMI of Nu 0.15M.

According to exporters and transporters in Gelephu, the export business has been riddled with frequent challenges since its commencement in November 2018.

But in the past two months, the business was flourishing after negotiations among importers, exporters and transporters on several issues, exporters said.

The Chairperson of Mines and Minerals with Gelephu Think Tank Business Member, Chencho Gyeltshen said, “Amid a thriving business, certain issues keep coming which affect the business.”

He said that the exporters have invested millions in dredging of the riverbed materials (RBM) along the Moa river and stocked thousands of metric tonnes of boulders.

Their biggest concern, he said is that with the monsoon approaching, the RBM worth billions would be washed away.

“This would result in substantial loss,” he said. “We are at greater risk of losing our properties if the situation remains the same.”

Many transporters and exporters Kuensel talked to said that it would help them if the financial institutions could come up with emergency measures for consumers affected by the disease outbreak.

An exporter suggests freezing of loan payments for some months until the situation improves.

A transporter, who took a loan with an overdraft account, said it would help if financial institutions could waive off interest payment in the meantime.

Another transporter, Karma has nine trucks (10-wheelers) with some engaged on hire in boulder business.

Of late, some of his trucks are ferrying cement from Nganglam to Gelephu on nominal transportation charges.

“I cannot afford to leave all the trucks idle any longer,” he said, adding that he has to bear payment for drivers and staff as well as pay rent for the office besides paying loan instalments.

Despite the low charges, he said that the trucks have to be deployed. “But given a large number of free vehicles in the market, it is hard to get a single truckload in five days.”

He said that while the charges could cover the cost for fuel and payment for drivers, the amount is not sufficient to repay the loan.

Another transporter, Chencho said that although the financial implication is huge, they cannot plead with the government considering the current public health crisis.

“It is not wise to bring our problems in the forefront even though we feel helpless,” he said.

The truckers claimed that due to the sudden lockdown by the government of India, they couldn’t calculate payments with the importers for the exports they made.

“We called them to make payments but they said because of the lockdown they can’t pay us.”