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
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.