Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Export of betel nut and ginger from Samtse and Phuentsholing is yet to resume.

Kuensel learned there are 120 metric tonnes (MT) of betel nut and 16MT of ginger at the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) auction yard in Samtse.

This is an increase from last week’s 103MT betel nut and 7.6MT of ginger.

In Phuentsholing, about 10 MT of ginger is lying at FCBL auction yard.

Should the problem persist further, the farmers will have to bear the ultimate brunt in the long run, suppliers and local leaders say.

A betel nut supplier in Samtse, Hari Sharma, said he left about 152 bags of betel nuts at FCBL auction yard in Samtse.

“I don’t understand what the problem is,” he said, adding he was told there are some problems across the border. “But the betel nuts have started to grow their shoots.”

Hari said just waiting will not solve the problem and that the government should do something.

Another supplier, Pradeep Subba, said he left 4,000 bags of betel nut at FCBL yard in Samtse, out of which only a few bags were exported.

“I heard shoots have started to grow from the nuts,” he said, adding that the parties in Chamarchi who had ordered the produce are asking him to take them back.

Pradeep Subba said betel nuts at FCBL store were not the only stocks waiting for export. Many people have huge stocks at their homes, he added.

Yoeseltse Gup Ganga Prasad Limboo said if betel nut is not exported at this time the suppliers will be at loss and it will have huge consequences.

“Then next year, buyers will not be able to offer good prices to the farmers,” he said. “This is the biggest worry.”

Yoeseltse’s main cash crop is betel nut, he said.


Suppliers and farmers in Samtse fear that ginger is more perishable in nature compared with betel nut.

A Tashichholing resident said that it is ginger harvest time today but farmers have stopped harvesting.

“There is no market. So there is no use of harvesting. It will only rot,” he said.

Pemaling gup said there was no export announcement yet on the export. He said that people depended solely on ginger sales. Pemaling gewog alone would have more than 200MT of ginger for export.

“I am worried for people’s welfare,” he said. “It is not only villagers in my gewog. There are so many farmers in other gewogs.”

The ginger quality has also improved this time due to the grading process farmers comply with now after many government awareness programmes.


The problem

The export of these betel nuts and ginger are at halt because India has not listed them under their import list. Officials in Jaigaon and Chamarchi are not allowing the import without proper documentation, which is not available with the Bhutanese exporters at present.

Along with these, export of cabbage to India has also been stopped.

In October last year, potato export was stopped. However, it was solved and along with potato, betel nut, mandarin, apple and ginger were also sanctioned for export from Bhutan to India.

But it was a temporary sanction.

After the sanction time limit expired this year, the problem started and potato export was stopped again in Jaigaon. However, on June 28, India allowed import of potato from Bhutan until June 30, 2022.

Bhutan had submitted seven more products (chilli, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, peas, and soybean) to the National Plant Protection Organisation, India for import approval.

Last week, a press release from the Embassy of India in Thimphu stated that the embassy organised a virtual bilateral trade meeting to facilitate Bhutan’s exports of key agricultural commodities to India.

The focus was inclusion of seven crops in the Plant Quarantine Order of India to enable their export to India.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk