Bhutanese ex­porters cry foul over il­licit prac­tices in car­damom trade

Business Bhutan - - Nation - Kr­ishna Ghal­ley from Phuentshol­ing

Car­damom ex­porters in Phuentshol­ing are cry­ing foul over de­clin­ing car­damom prices. Ow­ing to cer­tain il­licit prac­tices across the bor­der, traders are at the los­ing end while de­ter­min­ing the car­damom prices.

With the in­flu­ence of In­dian traders, the Bhutanese ex­porters have been fac­ing chal­lenges, un­able to ex­port their prod­uct. Bhutanese car­damom un­like car­damom of north­ern In­dia is ex­ported di­rectly to Bangladesh.

How­ever, In­dian traders with the help of some Bhutanese traders have adopted the prac­tice of mix­ing low qual­ity car­damom from Silig­uri in West Ben­gal. The traders mix the In­dian car­damom from Silig­uri and en­ter Bhutan via Jitti bor­der, in Samtse.

Af­ter that, they bring the prod­uct in Phuentshol­ing and pack it and re-ex­port to Bangladesh. For ex­am­ple the traders en­ter with such car­damom from Silig­uri via Jitti bor­der and then bring to Phuentshol­ing af­ter com­plet­ing the cus­toms pro­ce­dures.

With the mix­ture of in­fe­rior qual­ity car­damom from In­dia, the traders fix the mar­ket rate and pay to Bhutanese farm­ers who have su­pe­rior qual­i­ties. “Our car­damom has bet­ter qual­ity and could fetch bet­ter prices than to­day. But be­cause of such prac­tices, our farm­ers are un­able to re­ceive the de­serv­ing prices,” Singye Wangdi, a Bhutanese ex­porter said.

The traders say that the Bhutanese ex­porters do not have lib­erty to de­ter­mine the prices. Since, In­dian car­damom is not ex­ported to Bangladesh ow­ing to 100% tax, the traders grade the car­damom and in­fe­rior qual­i­ties are im­ported to Bhutan.

“The In­dian deal­ers play around the prices. It’s a great loss to our farm­ers who toil hard in the field,” said Singye Wangdi. The price has now de­creased to Nu 450 per kilo­gram. It had gone up to Nu 550 per kilo­gram af­ter com­plaint from these traders but again the prices have de­creased.

Also, de­cep­tive prac­tices are com­mon in car­damom trade by these In­dian traders who of­fer bet­ter prices than the Bhutanese ex­porters but cheat in weigh­ing ma­chines. With no more than five Bhutanese ex­porters most of the car­damom in Phuentshol­ing in bought by lo­cal In­dian traders who run busi­nesses in Phuentshol­ing. “The ef­fort must be put to stop en­trance of In­dian car­damom. There are oth­ers too work­ing on it. Oth­er­wise our Bhutanese car­damoms are in good de­mand and could fetch bet­ter prices,” said Singye Wangdi.

An­other trader, who echoed him said that while it is ev­i­dent that the prac­tice is preva­lent, but it has be­come dif­fi­cult to prove as it is prac­ticed cau­tiously. “Ev­ery­one is aware of it but noth­ing is be­ing done. We can’t prove with­out ev­i­dence,” said Sonam Tob­gay, an­other ex­porter. He has not ex­ported for a month now.

In 2016, he in­curred a loss of more than Nu 5mn. The Bhutanese ex­porters feel that it has be­come im­pos­si­ble to com­pete with their In­dian coun­ter­parts even in Bhutanese mar­ket. He plans to ex­plore mar­kets out­side Bangladesh and in the mid­dle-east where the de­mand is huge. “It has made us use­less. They rule the mar­ket and we just watch,” he said.

Also, it was learnt that few Bangladeshi traders have al­ready the en­tered Bhutanese mar­ket and they sup­ply di­rectly to Bangladesh. “En­ter­ing of in­ter­na­tional traders in the coun­try has be­come a threat for our sur­vival. There is no work for gen­uine ex­porters like us,” said Sonam Tob­gay adding that the Bhutanese au­thor­i­ties are mol­ly­cod­dling them by pro­vid­ing li­censes to op­er­ate busi­nesses if they give com­mis­sions.

Bhutanese car­damom be­came pop­u­lar over a decade with in­creas­ing num­bers of farm­ers in­ter­ested in car­damom cul­ti­va­tion.

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