Nepal: Surge in garlic imports raises suspicions

Garlic imports particularly from China have surged which customs officials believe are intended for re-export to India.

According to the Biratnagar Customs Office, 1,797 tonnes of garlic worth Rs 59.84 million were imported during the first quarter. However, in the whole of the last fiscal year, imports of the popular spice amounted to 2,135 tonnes valued at Rs 97.27 million.

“Comparing the import figures of the first quarter of this year and the whole of the last fiscal year, it is clear that imports have soared this year,” said an official of the customs office. “It has given ample space for doubting the purpose of the massive imports.”

Police said that betel nut smugglers had shifted to exporting Chinese garlic after the government hiked the import duty on betel nuts sharply to discourage their re-export. Traders had been re-exporting imported betel nuts as Nepali products after getting a certificate of origin from local chambers of commerce.

The Ministry of Commerce and Supplies has fixed the export quota for domestic garlic at 50,000 tonnes which has led to a surge in imports as local output is much smaller.

Chief of Biratnagar Customs Lab Adhikari said that the process of garlic exports to India as per the quota fixed by the Department of Commerce had begun. “Exports will be conducted based on rules,” he added.

However, the allocation of export quotas for locally grown garlic has raised eyebrows as production is negligible in eastern Nepal. Previously, no garlic used to be exported through Biratnagar Customs, and this is the first time that it is being shipped to India. Most of the country’s requirement of garlic is imported from China while a limited quantity is brought from India. Tirupati Traders, Mijan International and New AB Traders are some of the companies engaged in importing garlic. Traders said that they imported garlic for domestic industry and not for re-export. As garlic production in eastern Nepal is very small, the massive imports have raised suspicion about their objective, according to customs officials.

The Regional Agriculture Directorate, Biratnagar said it had no information about the cultivation of garlic in the 16 districts of eastern Nepal.

Section officer at the agriculture office Sher Bahadur Dewan said that they did not collect data about products which are not commercially grown or are cultivated in small quantities.


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