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Uncertainity ahead for boulder market amidst global economy quandary

By Tenzin Lhaden

Boulders export to Bangladesh and India picked up in November and December of last year with over 15,000 metric tonnes and 21,000 metric tonnes of boulders exported in two months, according to the record with the BEA. The expectations of exporters remain unsure with global economy situation which has hit the countryโ€™s potential boulder and aggregate market with uncertainties ahead.
Tshering Yeshi, General Secretary, Bhutan Exporter Association, said that Bangladesh is the most potential market for Bhutanese boulders and stone chips. There is scarcity of stones in Bangladesh that is a plus point for the exporters in Bhutan. โ€œIt is challenging for Bangladesh to import from other countries whereas Bhutan is their best option to import boulders. Bangladesh is about 110km from Phuntsholing,โ€ he said. He added that since there are infrastructural development activities happening in Bangladesh, they are in need of more stones which we are in position to provide. With global economy quandary which has impacted the boulder market since, Bangladesh is also yet to recover from the post pandemic effect.
However, the exporters said that the transportation is such a hassle โ€œWe were not permitted to assemble boulders from the source rather; we need to take it to dry port. From the dry port, it is loaded in Indian vehicles which cost extra to us. It would be helpful in the event that Indian vehicles were allowed to take till the source which can save cost on re-loading the good from the dry port,โ€ citing the current arrangement said Lobzang Tshering, Aampaa International Export.
He expressed that before they can stack the boulders from crasher and enter customs office which is simple in procedure and convenient for the exporters. With current arrangement, from crashing unit they need to send it to dry port and unload materials and, re-load which is a truly lengthy cycle that cost them Nu, 1200. โ€œAt the point when the economy of our country is stalled, we really need to increase exportโ€, he added. In a day, they are able to send just about 4 to 5 truck loads.
On a comparable line, Chencho Gyeltshen, Vajrata Export and Import, expressed that there is issue regarding Indian Rupee (INR). Sometimes, requirement of INR is not adequate for the exporters, as Bhutanese exporters need to pay to Indian truckers for transportation and maintainence.
Contrast to 2018 and 2019 where precise export protocol, rules and guidelines were not know, today everything is in line, said Kelzang, Regional Secretary, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In any case, he said, export via Gelephu is picking daily. Gelephu exported close to three million USD worth of boulders last year. The highest export was in December. During the lockdowns, due to COVID-19 the export was severely affected. With onset normalcy in situation, the export has been steadily increasing. However, the exporters could not export as they expected during the monsoon season. With heavy downfall of rainwater many bridges were washed away or damaged and at many parts, road conditions have deteriorated which has hampered export. Also, the infrastructure in the identified trade routes between Bhutan and India such as bridges and roads need renovation, he added.
The BCCI Regional Secretary also expressed his concern over ongoing economy situation in Bangladesh and if the situation persists he said, โ€œWe are worried about export business referring to current Bangladesh economy. Bhutan Export Association (BEA) and individual exporters have to start exploring alternative market. If BEA and exporters need BCCI assistance in exploring market, we are ready to assist,โ€ he said.
The boulders and aggrigates export has been seen as one of the avenues to earn foreign currency when the country is facing with foreign currency reserve fund crunch. The amount paid to truckers against the revenue earned from the export is at dimunutive.

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