Bilateral meet to facilitate Bhutan’s agri-exports to India

The meeting was chaired by Indian Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj

Sonam Penjor

The Embassy of India organized a virtual bilateral trade meeting on 2 July to address and urgently facilitate Bhutan’s exports of key agricultural commodities to India.

The press release from the Embassy of India states that the meeting focused on the inclusion of seven crops which include chili, bean, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, pea, and soya bean in the Plant Quarantine Order of India, to enable the export to India.

Issues to exempt Bhutan from the ‘minimum import price’ policy condition on arecanut and from the ‘import restriction’ on ginger; deployment of a new plant quarantine officer at the Land Customs Station at Jaigaon on the India-Bhutan border, to facilitate exports of Bhutan’s agri-products to India were also discussed.

The meeting was chaired by Indian Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj, and co-chaired by Joint Secretary in the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India (GoI), Amitabh Kumar, and by Officiating Director General in the Department of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Rinchen Lhazom.

Representatives from the respective foreign ministries and agriculture ministries of India and Bhutan also participated in the meeting.

According to the press release, in October last year, India had granted new market access for five agri-exports which includes arecanut, mandarin, apple, potato, ginger from the country and had opened a new plant quarantine office at Jaigaon.

At Bhutan’s request, the GoI had lifted the import restriction on potato only for Bhutan up to June 2022, thereby alleviating the difficulties faced by Bhutanese traders in exporting potato to India.

During the meeting, the press release added, the Bhutanese side conveyed the concerns raised by farmers and traders who are facing hurdles in transitioning to the formal sector.

Given the perishable nature of these commodities and the livelihoods adversely affected, the Bhutanese side requested the Indian side to grant exemption to Bhutan for the current export season and from the Indian side agreed to look into Bhutan’s requests favorably and expedite the approval process, as feasible, in view of the exceptionally close and friendly relations between India and Bhutan.

In adding, it also states that India has been extending the fullest cooperation and support to Bhutan in terms of ensuring uninterrupted movement of commodities through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our close trade and economic ties are a reflection of the special bonds of trust and understanding between Bhutan and India that have existed over decades,” the press release states.

Further, it stated that the government and the people of India stand resolutely committed to the long term wellbeing and prosperity of the government and the people of Bhutan.