Food imports and exports were interrupted in 2020 owing to border restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The most difficult challenge in exporting vegetables in 2021 was the Government of India (GoI) formalization of trade.
Only asparagus was listed for export. Previously, a cardamom export issue surfaced, and the government promptly remedied it, as well as the other five products: cardamom, mandarin, ginger, apple, and areca nut.
India buys soil-free potatoes, which Bhutan has not been able to manufacture until now, but the GoI granted clearance for potatoes till mid 2023, based on demand in India.
However, the ginger scenario came to light after the government examined the documents and found that, in accordance with a 2016 agreement between Nepal and India, fresh ginger would be imported from Nepal. Bhutan, meanwhile, was not mentioned.
As of now, areca nut export to India is still prohibited, despite restrictions on ginger recently being lifted.
Economic Minister Loknath Sharma said that except for areca nuts, the majority of Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) products do not have any restrictions. Additionally, they have requested the perpetual supply of potatoes.
Lyonpo said that the country is already permitted to export 12 RNR products and they have been accepting the plant quarantine order for these products. And once the ban on export of areca nuts is lifted, Bhutan will not face export issues in the future.
Lyonpo said “We experienced problems in 2018 as a result of the ICE gate. Nevertheless, under normal conditions, there shouldn’t be any issues with the export of RNR products in the future.”
Meanwhile, Lyonpo added that the areca nut issue is being discussed, according to a letter recently received from the Ministry of Commerce of India. The ministry is hoping that it will be resolved soon.