The Minister of Economic Affairs Loknath Sharma during his recent visit to Delhi met with the Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar and the Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal.
In his meetings with the two ministers he raised the issue of allowing all Bhutanese vegetable exports into India without any restrictions.
Currently after restrictions were recently lifted on ginger and potato was given an extension till June 2023, the issue of areca nut was still pending as its export to India is still not allowed.
Lyonpo said that in his meeting with the Agriculture Minister and his team he explained that while India grows its areca nut mainly in southern India only a limited quantity is grown in Bhutan which is exported mainly to nearby areas like Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Kokrajhar etc and around 50 percent are processed and sent back to Bhutan.
He said in this way Bhutan’s areca exports do not impact Indian farmers at all and in fact ends up benefitting many small business people in India who can process it and send it back to Bhutan.
Lyonpo also assured the agriculture minister that there is no danger of Bhutan importing areca nut from countries like Malaysia and re-exporting it to India as firstly all trade for Bhutan goes through Indian territory and secondly Bhutan has a 20 percent sales tax and 50 percent customs duty for the impact of areca nut.
Lyonpo also impressed on the minister the need to perpetually allow potato exports from Bhutan to India beyond June 2023 as they are free of any chemicals and other impurities and it is bought by only a few small Indian business people.
Lyonpo said he was assured by the Minister that both the above matters will be considered and notified soon.
In his meeting with the Commerce Minister Lyonpo explained that the vegetables in Bhutan come into season when India does not have them and vice versa and so when Bhutan does not have them they are imported from India.
He said that vegetable exports by Bhutan are of a very minimal amount too.
Lyonpo called upon the Commerce Minister to give consideration to Bhutan whenever India restricts imports.
The minister said that the minister on the spot called the Agricultural Advisor and asked him to resolve the matter within a week to 10 days.
The MoEA minister also impressed upon the Commerce Minister that Bhutan is not looking for anything special, but only wants to operate based on the free trade agreement between the two countries.
Lyonpo said that traditionally too Bhutan’s main trading partner is India who is also the only trading country with which Bhutan shares a border.
He said that so trade between Bhutan and India should not stop.
Lyonpo also received assurances on this front.