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Betel nut consumers pick up export slack

- Post Report, JHAPA

May 19, 2017-Nepali betel nut fans have been chomping away with greater vigour to the delight of traders who were facing unsold inventory as exports to India have stopped.

“When exports came to a halt, we did not incur significant losses,” said Rudra Chapagain, president of Nepal Betel Nuts Production Association. “The betel nuts are being consumed in the local market.”

Exports dried up after a dispute arose over who should issue the certificate of origin (CoO). Betel nuts used to be exported from Biratnagar customs according to the quota fixed by the government. The local Chamber of Commerce and Industry used to issue the CoO as per the recommendation of the Nepal Betel Nuts Farming Development Committee in Jhapa.  

Two years ago, after two other associations—Nepal Betel Nuts Producers Association and Nepal National Betel Nuts Farming Development Committee—filed a writ at the Supreme Court demanding the right to issue the CoO, exports came to a complete halt. 

Before the dispute emerged, Indian authorities had warned that they would conduct lab tests to determine if the products were really of Nepali origin. Smuggling had been rife due to a wide difference in betel nut prices in India and Nepal.

Betel nuts used to fetch Rs100 more per kilogram in India, making it an irresistible temptation to smugglers. Nepal’s betel nut imports far surpass domestic requirements, and most of the shipments used to be re-exported to India after being labelled as Nepali products. Indian authorities had 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 had even asked Nepal to control the illegal trade. 

Betel nuts are now being consumed in Jhapa and in the western part of Nepal as well, according to Chapagain. Mechinagar’s Itabhatta processing centre has been preparing nearly 7 quintals of betel nuts daily. The centre collects the produce from farmers, processes them and supplies them to market, said Anil Bhetwal, director of the processing centre. 

The centre has been selling betel nuts for around Rs300-315 per kg. It employs around 200 workers. Other key producing areas include Bahundangi, Shantinagar, Budhabare, Sanischare, Arjundhara and Khudnabari.

Published: 19-05-2017 08:34

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