Lone cold chain sup­plier mo­nop­o­lizes fish mar­ket

Other lo­cal sup­pli­ers are in the process of val­i­dat­ing their doc­u­ments to be reg­is­tered with the Ex­port Coun­cil of India

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Phub Dem from Thim­phu

Af­ter the three-month hia­tus on fish im­port from India, a lone cold chain sup­plier is mo­nop­o­liz­ing the mar­ket even as other meat shops suf­fer and de­mand for fish es­ca­lates.

Cur­rently, Shangrila Cold­chain is the only sup­plier of fish in the mar­ket. It is the first and only im­porter of fish af­ter Bhutan Agri­cul­ture and Food Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity (BAFRA) no­ti­fied that start­ing Au­gust, all im­port of fish into

Bhutan would be routed through Ex­port Coun­cil of India (ECI).

The Cold­chain im­ported 18MT of fish on Septem­ber 22.

The CEO of Shangrila Cold­chain, Ch­himi Dorji, said they im­port the fish from Orissa, India. “We are ex­pect­ing 15MT of fish by this week.”

The Cold­chain sup­plies fish to other meat shops and reg­u­lar cus­tomers.

The price of Rui fish has in­creased from Nu 190 to Nu 280, while Pankaj fish which used to cost Nu 170 a kilo ear­lier now costs Nu 230.

Meat ven­dors are com­plain­ing that the hike in prices has made fish sale dif­fi­cult.

The owner of AK Meat Shop, Maya Thapa, said it has been more than two months since she stopped sell­ing fish. “The rates are too high when we buy from lo­cal sup­pli­ers.”

How­ever, Ch­himi Dorji said that the rise in price is due to the im­port of frozen and pro­cessed fish which goes through proper qual­ity grad­ing and deep freez­ing pro­ce­dures as per the ECI norms to en­sure the qual­ity and safety of the prod­uct. “The rec­om­mended MRP is fixed by the pro­ces­sors.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, meat ven­dors in Thim­phu are wor­ried about fur­ther rise in the price. An em­ployee of Druk Meat Shop said that they ex­pect the price to rise fur­ther as Shangrila Cold­chain had in­formed them about get­ting new stock of fish.

Ch­himi Dorji said that there will be rate fluc­tu­a­tion depend­ing on the cost of raw fish at source, hence a fixed price can­not be guar­an­teed. “How­ever we do not ex­pect any rad­i­cal price rise for the coming con­sign­ment.”

He added that pre­vi­ously fish im­ported into the coun­try was only chilled and not frozen there­fore the lo­cal sup­pli­ers along the Indo-Bhutan bor­der had no op­tion but to treat the fish with for­ma­lin in or­der to pre­vent them from rot­ting but this was highly in­ju­ri­ous to health.

“The ECI pro­ce­dures are very rigid for com­pli­ance so this en­tails a high cost to en­sure goods are de­liv­ered as per in­ter­na­tional norms to be fit for hu­man con­sump­tion.”

Mean­while, meat ven­dors said that they get to buy 20kg of Rui only if they pur­chase 100kg of Pankaj from the sup­plier.

An em­ployee of Shangrila Cold­chain ex­plained that the con­di­tion is set since they have lim­ited stock of Rui.

An em­ployee of Druk Meat Shop said ap­prox­i­mately 50 peo­ple visit their shop for fish daily. “How­ever, we are not able to meet their de­mand,” he said, “The sup­plier pro­vides us with lim­ited stock and that also we have to make pay­ment with cash on spot.”

A ven­dor un­der anonymity said that the lone sup­plier is mo­nop­o­liz­ing the mar­ket right now.

Talk­ing to Busi­ness

Bhutan, Reg­u­la­tory and Quar­an­tine Of­fi­cer of BAFRA, Dr Kin­ley Pen­jor, said BAFRA had signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with ECI that im­ports chilled fish, and crus­taceans from India would be al­lowed only with a health cer­tifi­cate is­sued by EIC. “The ECI is the com­pe­tent author­ity in India in en­sur­ing sound de­vel­op­ment of ex­port trade of India through qual­ity con­trol and in­spec­tion and mat­ters con­nected.”

He said the fish im­porters were asked to im­port fish from sup­pli­ers that are reg­is­tered with ECI. “ECI will test and cer­tify food and agri­cul­ture prod­ucts that are ex­ported to Bhutan.”

There are 605 fish sup­pli­ers reg­is­tered with ECI and BAFRA has signed MoU with three In­dian com­pa­nies.

Se­nior Reg­u­la­tory and Quar­an­tine of­fi­cer with BAFRA, Prakash Ta­mang, said that lo­cal dealers ful­fill­ing the cri­te­ria of the MoU can im­port fish from the three In­dian com­pa­nies that are reg­is­tered with ECI. The firms that are reg­is­tered with ECI must pro­duce a health cer­tifi­cate signed by a com­pe­tent of­fi­cer at ECI.

Shangrila Cold­chain is the only firm that has ful­filled all the cri­te­ria and is now im­port­ing fish from the reg­is­tered three com­pa­nies as of now.

Dr Kin­ley Pen­jor said that since the other sup­pli­ers are in the process of val­i­dat­ing their doc­u­ments, Shangrila is not mo­nop­o­liz­ing the mar­ket.

Fish scarcity hit the coun­try af­ter BAFRA no­ti­fied that im­port of chilled fish from India will be al­lowed only with a health cer­tifi­cate is­sued by the ECI of India.

Ac­cord­ing to BAFRA, the ECI con­ducts post­facto test­ing of fish and their prod­ucts for ev­ery fish con­sign­ment ex­ported to Bhutan to en­sure that the chilled fish meets the im­port con­di­tions and re­quire­ments set by BAFRA.

“The ECI car­ries out rou­tine in­spec­tion, mon­i­tor­ing and test­ing of fish and fish prod­ucts of reg­is­tered farms on reg­u­lar ba­sis for ex­port,” he said.

Dr Kin­ley Pen­jor fur­ther added that BAFRA is do­ing ev­ery­thing in its abil­ity to en­sure that all chilled fish en­ter­ing Bhutan are of good qual­ity and safe for Bhutanese con­sumers. The Author­ity is pri­or­i­tiz­ing safety of food over trade bar­ri­ers for the in­ter­est of all.

The coun­try im­ported 752.88MT of fish from Jan­uary till June this year.

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