Photo : UNDP Bhutan

Bhutan and India MoU on food certification to help Bhutanese farmers and entrepreneurs to export to India

During the recent state visit of Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, a series of agreements were signed between Bhutan and India, aiming to strengthen collaboration.

Among the significant agreements signed was a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA) and relevant competent authorities in India.

The major challenge faced by local products has been to streamline certification processes and enhance competitiveness in the export market considering  Bhutan has approximately 94 percent of entrepreneurs operating within the private sector.

In the past, Bhutanese products underwent certification procedures at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in Kolkata, India. While the products were certified, they did not meet the required standards, and they were advised to enhance their labeling and packaging.

Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA) under the Ministry of Health, oversees product certification. However, it lacked international affiliation for exports, further complicating the process.

The first agreement, a significant milestone, pertained to the recognition of official control exercised by the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA) by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

Signed by Pemba Wangchuk, Secretary of the Ministry of Health, and Sudhakar Dalela, Ambassador of India to Bhutan, this agreement signifies a leap forward in bilateral ties between the two nations in food and agricultural products trade.

The agreement’s primary objective is to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of food and agricultural products exported from Bhutan to India.

By accepting export inspection certificates issued by BFDA, as per prescribed import requirements, FSSAI aims to streamline trade processes, eliminating the need for redundant inspections and certifications upon entry into India.

Tandy Wangchuk, President of the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), expressed, “This MoU will significantly streamline processes for our entrepreneurs, unlike in the past, where we encountered numerous challenges related to budget constraints and a lack of product certification for export.”

This initiative is set to enhance business facilitation between the two nations while also strengthening Bhutan’s local food industry’s competitiveness on the global stage.

In addition to strengthening food safety measures another MoU was signed between the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA) and the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC).

This agreement aims to enhance cooperation in sharing pharmacopeia, reference standards, vigilance, and testing of medicinal products, aligning with respective laws and regulations.

The MoU enables Bhutan to accept the Indian Pharmacopoeia as a standard reference for medicines, further facilitating the supply of generic medicines at affordable prices.

This collaboration underscores both nations’ commitment to promoting safety and quality in medical products, ultimately benefiting the health and well-being of their citizens.

As Bhutan and India proceed with these agreements, there is a noticeable anticipation regarding their potential positive impact on public health, trade relations, and overall bilateral cooperation.

With mutual dedication to upholding stringent standards in food and drug safety, both nations are poised to embark on a new era of collaboration and progress.

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