BIRATNAGAR: Betel nut exports to India have stopped after the Indian authorities announced that they would conduct lab tests to determine if the products were really of Nepali origin or not.
No shipments have been dispatched to India for the last 10 days after the announcement, said the Biratnagar Customs Office.
Around two and a half months ago, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had seized 421 tonnes of contraband betel nuts in Biratnagar. The CIAA confiscated the consignment after the certificate of origin was found to be fake.
Nepal’s betel nut imports far surpass domestic requirements, and most of the shipments are re-exported to India after being labelled as Nepali products. Customs records show that imports have swelled immensely in the last three years.
The Indian authorities have been expressing concern over the excessive exports from Nepal for a long time. Alarmed by a surge in the smuggling of betel nuts from third countries, India has asked Nepal to control the illegal trade.
The government has set an export quota of 11,000 tonnes from Jhapa and Morang for this fiscal year. In the last fiscal year, the export quota was set at 9,000 tonnes. Customs officials said that around 4,200 tonnes of betel nuts had
been exported to India in the last four months of fiscal year.
Recently, the government decided to charge import duty of a flat Rs 45 per kg on betel nuts and scrap the earlier provision of 30 percent customs duty. The policy change under Financial Bill 2014-15 was intended to control rampant smuggling of betel nuts through the eastern border.
The country imported 3,802 tonnes of betel nuts in 2011-12 which soared to 7,930 tonnes in 2012-13. In the last fiscal year, imports of betel nuts were worth Rs 2.30 billion. For the past few years, a few influential traders from Jhapa and Morang have been re-exporting betel nuts imported from third countries to India by tagging them as original Nepali products.