Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) have tested the pesticide residue level in chillies sold in the farmers’ market. Poblano chillies imported from India, which look closest to the Bhutanese chillies, tested above the maximum residue limits (MRLs) permissible for human consumption. This type of chilli has also been more popular than most other Indian Chillies.
In its regular surveillance of pesticides contents in fruits and vegetables, BAFRA had earlier found maximum content of pesticides in other vegetables, like beans and cauliflower imported from India.
The Agriculture Minister, Yeshey Dorji, said that based on the result of the laboratory tests conducted by BAFRA and findings of the task-force, the ministry has authorized BAFRA to enforce temporary ban on import of beans and cauliflowers only, and also to introduce the system of import permit. He also said that the samples of all vegetables and fruits imported from India will undergo a thorough examination in reference food laboratories in India and Thailand.
Lyonpo stated that a temporary ban could not be issued on the particular variety of chilli detected with high pesticide content as its growing season is over, so no more import was made.
As of now, Bhutan imports more than five varieties of chillies from India, and accordingly, BAFRA is conducting a regular surveillance on all varieties of chilies to ensure that they are safe for human consumption.
Further, BAFRA has sent imported fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, bringal , potato, grapes, etc., to the laboratories in India and Thailand for testing.
The test detects four major groups of pesticides, like Carbamate, Pyrethroid, Organochloride and Organoplatinum.
BAFRA has also collected additional samples of fruits and vegetables to be sent to the laboratories for an in depth test to detect if any artificial/chemical colouring is being used in fruits and vegetables to enhance its colours.
To address the issue of high content of pesticide residues confirmed through laboratory testing, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests has formed a technical task-force to study the report submitted by BAFRA and propose possible remedial measures.
Similarly, BAFRA will be conducting field tests on other vegetables coming into Bhutan from all entry point, namely Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar. All vegetables imported from border areas will be thoroughly tested for pesticide content by BAFRA.
Meantime, the ministry is conducting a thorough discussion and awareness amongst the wholesale importers and vendors on the issue of high content of pesticide residues found in imported chillies, beans and cauliflowers.