Vegetable export to operate via Gelephu & Samdrup Jongkhar

Meanwhile, aggressive marketing and proper coordination being done to distribute vegetables in the domestic market

Chilli, bean, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, pea, and soya bean from Bhutan can now be exported to India through the quarantine station in Jaigaon, India with effect from 14 July.

According to the Agriculture and Forests Minister, Yeshey Penjor, the interim solution was approved by the Government of India (GoI) but due to the rigorous lockdown, the government is unable to export the produce through Phuentsholing, so the ministry is attempting to export through Samdrup Jongkhar to cover the eastern region and Gelephu for the western and central regions.

“Despite the GoI’s consent, we were unable to send through Phuentsholing. However, once the vaccination is completed, if the lockdown in Phuentsholing is released, we will be allowed to export through Phuentsholing,” the Agriculture Minister stated.

This is a temporary arrangement and an extraordinary step created just for Bhutan, stated the Indian Embassy’s press release, and it further stated, until the appropriate notifications are finalized and published as per protocol by the Indian government. 

This initiative to provide formal market access for these seven agri-exports, which are presently in season, and is intended to alleviate the problems experienced by Bhutanese farmers.

“The decision is in keeping with the exceptionally close and friendly ties that India shares with Bhutan including mutually beneficial trade relations,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Chief Marketing Officer of Department of Agriculture and Marketing Cooperative (DAMC), Dawa Tshering, said that given the large investment in vegetable cultivation during the pandemic, it is projected that production will increase significantly in comparison to the previous years.

He said that in assessing the volume of export of commodities from the past trends, some of the commodities such as cabbages, carrots, beetroots and potatoes may not be absorbed easily for immediate domestic consumption.

For these commodities, a contingency plan is formulated looking at other options available, such as storage and processing and eventually some sort of compensation, should the export fail.

“Peas, cauliflower, chillies, and radish can be absorbed in the domestic market through more aggressive marketing and proper coordination in distribution,” he said.

In the meantime, to give confidence to the farmers, a collection or an aggregate centre at Damchu (Chukha) is being setup where farmers can bring their surplus produce. The ministry also has activated the buy-back starting from 23 June 2021.

He said that despite the pandemic, export was facilitated and went quite smoothly in 2020, albeit some hitches in between. DAMC placed several staff in all gateways to help the growers and exporters export their produce.

The major export were cardamom, ginger, carrot, cabbage and potato, with more than 26,900 metric tonne (MT) of export worth about Nu 1.7 billion (bn) was exported to India and Bangladesh during 2020. Similarly in 2020, more than 13,000 MT of vegetables worth more than Nu 387 million were imported- largely accounted by potato, cabbage, carrot, eggplant (bringal) and tomatoes.

The Department of Agriculture recently completed the vegetable sufficiency and production plan. The plan is segregated into summer and winter production season with special focus to the deficit months from December to March.

“Although the climatic condition is not feasible for warm season vegetables, like chilli, onion, tomato, brinjal, etc. The department is proposing for additional protected cultivation structures and also conducting research on cold tolerant varieties,” he said.

He added that in general, in summer most of the vegetables are sufficient, while in winter, vegetables, like brinjal, bulb onion, chilli, cucurbits and tomatoes would be scarce.

However, the department is prioritizing commodities such as production of deficit vegetable like chili, onion and tomato in the winters, based on the market demand.

MoAF has identified 20,819 acres to be cultivated with vegetables this winter 2021-2022. The total expected production through additional protected structures is 31,734 MT.

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