More than two months ago the top bureaucrat of the West Bengal government in the form of its Chief Secretary informed the Bhutanese Consul General that the West Bengal government does not want to export beef from Jaigaon in West Bengal to Bhutan.
If implemented, this move will have a major impact on Bhutanese plates given that the majority of Bhutan’s favorite and most consumed meat comes from Jaigaon.
Ever since then, there has been complete silence from the Foreign Ministry on the issue which first received this communication from Kolkata.
An official from the Foreign Ministry on the condition of anonymity said that the Foreign Ministry was not responding to the Chief Secretary’s message as a formal response may trigger the dreaded beef export ban.
He said, “The West Bengal government has not done or said anything since and so if we respond officially then the ban could kick into place.”
The Foreign Ministry is in a dilemma as the issue had initially been sent to the Ministry of Economic Affairs as a trade issue but the buck was passed from there to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF).
A MoAF committee of Department of Livestock, BAFRA and Department of Marketing Cooperatives had said that in the interest of bilateral relationship and goodwill between the Government of West Bengal and the Royal Government of Bhutan, the ban of slaughter and export of beef from Jaigaon to Bhutan could be better implemented by the West Bengal government.
This particular line is what troubled the Foreign Ministry officials as it would be equated to Bhutan accepting the export ban. The Foreign Ministry in the meantime is planning to submit a report on the issue to the cabinet which has also not discussed the issue.
The Chief Secretary of West Bengal had also given the option of opening a joint slaughter house for buffaloes in Pasakha to meet Bhutan’s meat demands.
The Agriculture Ministry said that setting up of a joint slaughterhouse at Pasakha is not feasible due to objections from religious bodies and the public.
The Director General of the Department of Livestock Dr Tashi Samdrup said that the current export of beef from Jaigaon to Bhutan is being done informally.
He said that if beef export is banned then there would be problems in Bhutan and it would not only lead to a sharp increase in prices but a black market would develop making it difficult to monitor quality.
He said that given the religious and other sentiments Bhutan is not in a position to meet its own beef requirements now nor would it be ready in the case of any ban.