Nima | Gelephu

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials in Gelephu seized and disposed of 167kg of imported chillies on Monday.

The officials seized it from a vegetable vendor during their daily inspection.

The vendor has to pay a fine, 10 times the market value, which comes to around Nu 263,000. The incident is the first since the border sealing in March. Import of chilli was banned in 2016.

The officials on duty found that the vendor tried to import chillies by mixing with other imported vegetables. Chilli is the most illegally imported vegetable, said the officials.

Officer-In-charge with BAFRA, Lham Dorji said the number of people trying to import banned vegetables has decreased with the border sealing. “In other times, all sorts of vehicles comes from the gate and it’s impossible to check all the vehicles,” he said.

He added that the chillies from nearby border used to hit the town when the porous borders were not guarded like today. Only the bigger vehicles carrying essential items and vegetables passes the gate today. This has made monitoring and inspection more efficient.

Lham Dorji said the imported chillies were smuggled mostly using illegal routes in the past. “However, the import of banned vegetables has gone down drastically since 2018 because people are aware of the high pesticide content in the imported vegetables,” he said.

BAFRA officials in Gelephu said the illegal import of vegetables has declined also because of increased inspection.