India to waive curbs, allow food items to be shipped to Bhutan

New Delhi: India will allow the export of around 103,600 tonnes of food items to Bhutan under a humanitarian operation, making an exception for its strategic partners amid export restrictions, two senior government officials said. This comes after signs of potential progress in long-running border talks between China and Bhutan drew India’s attention as Beijing stepped up efforts to establish diplomatic ties with the tiny kingdom. Himalayan.

In August, it exported 79,000 tonnes of non-basmati white rice to Bhutan, followed by 1.98 million tonnes of the staple to nine other key Asian and African nations, including Singapore, Nepal, Malaysia and the Philippines at its request after India banned. non-basmati white rice exports on July 20.

India will supply 14,184 tonnes of wheat grain, 5,326 tonnes of wheat flour, nearly 15,300 tonnes of maida, suji (semolina) and 48,804 tonnes of broken rice to Bhutan under humanitarian operations, one of the officials said. It will also supply about 20,000 tonnes of sugar to Bhutan, the other official said.

The exports will be made through National Cooperative Exports Ltd, a government export body established under the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act (MSCS), 2002 for the export of agricultural products and allied goods.

“We cannot refuse requests for food items from countries like Nepal and Bhutan that depend on imports to meet their domestic demand. To keep the strategic relationship intact on both sides, despite the ban, we are offering help more or less,” said the second official.

Bhutan depends on imports to meet food demand. It mainly imports oil and fuels, base metals, electrical machinery and appliances, vehicles, timber and food. India is Bhutan’s main import partner, contributing about 80% of total imports.

Other import partners include South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, China and Nepal.

From April to September, India’s agricultural exports to Bhutan stood at $65.19 million compared to $79.63 million in the same period last year. In FY23, India’s exports to Bhutan of agricultural commodities in agricultural commodities, including cereals, spices, meat, dairy products and poultry stood at $148.31 million out of a total of $1.07 billion against $135.94 million out of a total of $874.53 million in FY22, according to the Ministry of Trade and Commerce. industry.

Meanwhile, Chinese exports to Bhutan have been increasing over the years. Exports of goods increased to $169.42 million in FY22 from $13.34 million in FY18.

Inquiries sent to spokespersons of the Bhutanese embassy in New Delhi and the union’s food and public distribution department were unanswered at press time.

Since last year, the central government has taken several measures to curb food inflation, including curbs on sugar exports and a ban on wheat exports in May 2022, a ban on broken rice exports in September 2022 and a ban on on export of non-basmati white. rice in July 2023.

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Updated: 14 November 2023, 11:22 PM IST

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