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Border town strikes sour mandarin export

Since November, more than 50 truckloads of mandarin have been exported

Export: The two-day strike, which begins today in Bangladesh soon after a strike was called off in the Indian border town of Assam, has left Bhutanese mandarin exporters worried.

With the peak mandarin export season on from January, exporters in Samdrupjongkhar are worried that the frequent strikes in the border towns would affect export.

The recent strike in Assam has left most mandarin consignment stranded, which was a loss to the exporters since mandarins are perishable.

The depot in Samdrupjongkhar receives more than 20 truckloads of mandarin a day. Despite good yield this year, exporters said that if the strikes continued, it could disrupt exports.

There are four exporters in Samdrupjongkhar who export mandarin to Bangladesh via Dawki, about 280km and Burimari about 405km, bordering India and Bangladesh.

The floor price of mandarin this year has remained the same as last year’s. For meel (big sized mandarin) the floor price is Nu 13 while for keel (small sized) its Nu 10.

Exporters said because of the delay in delivery due to the ongoing strikes, the price drops because by the time the goods are delivered, the consignment is rotten.

Each exporter sends about seven truckloads of consignment a day when there are no strikes.

Exporter Langa Dorji said they have to export mandarin in Indian trucks as they are allowed to travel at night after the strike is lifted.

“The gate closes at 5pm and if we have to reach the border on time then we’ve to send at night,” he said, adding that if the strike is called again, the consignment is halted midway.

During the strike, exporters said they pay about Nu 30,000 for each truckload that ferries about 300 boxes of mandarin. Otherwise, it’s about Nu 20,000 on a normal day.

Since the export season began in November, more than 50 truckloads of mandarin have been exported. If not for the frequent strikes, exporters said more than 80 truckloads would have left Bhutan.

“If the strikes continue, then it will be difficult during the peak season as the depot would receive more mandarin and the market price would drop,” an exporter said.

Another exporter Sayna said despite the strike in Bangladesh, they have to manage anyhow to deliver the consignment.

“If we don’t deliver on time, the Bangladeshi importers would import orange from China and India that will further affect our export,” Sayna said.

A supplier from Gomdar gewog Sonam Zagpo said this year the yield has been good compared to the previous years.

“But the frequent strikes have left many villagers wondering if they should start harvesting,” he said. “The price was good last year but owing to the poor yield, farmers couldn’t fetch a good price and this year it’s totally the opposite.”

A Bangladeshi importer Ganesh Chandrapal said demand for mandarin in Bangladesh picks from January 14 onwards with various local festivals taking place.

However, the frequent strikes, he said have affected timely delivery of goods.

“Our consignment has been loaded since yesterday but now we ‘ve to wait for the strike in Bangladesh to lift and hope Assam will not call for more strikes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bhutan Exporter Association’s (BEA) general secretary Tshering Yeshi said besides Samdrupjongkhar, exporters in other parts of the country were affected as well.

“Because of a similar situation and poor yield last year, export dropped to almost half of what we earned in 2012,” Tshering Yeshi said.

Records with BEA show about 12,791 MT of mandarin exported last year earning USD 5.6M while in 2012, about 23,721 MT were earning USD 10.4M.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar

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