Bhawan Bhatta, My Republica, June 30, 2019
Import of fruits and vegetables from India to Kanchanpur has resumed after a week long pause.
But unlike in the past when the goods used to reach Mahendranagar Bazaar in two hours, it now takes two days because of the recently enforced rules that mandate the customs authorities to issue clearance only after performing toxigenicity tests on the imports.
Importers are being allowed to haul the goods to the market only after authorities perform tests at a laboratory in Attariya, Kailali.
According to Kanchanpur Customs Office, toxic chemicals were detected in fruits and vegetables hauled by two freighters on Thursday.
“Six trucks carrying agricultural products entered on Friday,” Ram prasad Pokhrel, customs officer said. “We have sent the trucks for tests.”The import of vegetables and fruits from India had come to a grinding halt for a week after the Department of Commerce, Supply and Consumer Protection Management mandated authorities to perform toxicology tests.
The imports have resumed only after the traders agreed hauling goods to the laboratory for tests.
However, traders say that the Department’s move has added to the hassles as the fruits and vegetables have to be transported to Attariya, around 60 kilometres away from the Kanchanpur Customs, and hauled back to Mahendranagar.
Traders have expressed discontent over the lack of a laboratory at the customs point and said it now takes around two days to supply the edibles to the market. Also, the fruits and vegetables have a higher chance of being damaged due to the delay in tests and supply.
“The fruits and vegetables might be damaged on the way to the laboratory and back because of delay in test reports,” Narendra Saud, a trader said. “It would be easier if a laboratory was set up at the customs point.”
Also, the price of local agricultural products has spiked following the enforcement of tests.
According to consumers, the price of local vegetables has increased by Rs10 to Rs20 per kilogram.The Vegetable Market Management Committee in lieu of the hike has warned of action against traders who hike prices when imports are delayed.
According to the Committee’s Chairperson Bishal Sonar, some traders have expressed their commitment to not sell the goods at inflated price as the local products have gained better market.
“We are also monitoring the market and in case of complaints by consumers, we will take action against the trader,” said Sonar. “But the imported agricultural products must be tested before it reaches the market.”
Sonar also said that few traders have been hauling fruits and vegetables in cycles and motorbikes without taking the goods for lab tests and selling it at higher prices.
As per the test provisions, fruits and vegetables with toxicity level of 35 percent are considered safe to eat while those with 35 to 45 percent toxicity must be stored for few days and retested. And the laboratory has called for destroying agricultural products containing more than 45 percent of toxic chemicals.