Money

Lentil imports through Sirsiya jump twofold

  • Suspicious surge
- SHANKAR ACHARYA, PARSA

Jul 10, 2018-Lentil imports through Sirsiya Dry Port in Birgunj have oddly doubled since last year, raising suspicions that the agro product is being re-exported to India through clandestine channels.

Market insiders said that smugglers were getting into lentils after the betel nut and black pepper rackets were busted. Nepal’s lentil imports far surpass domestic requirements, and most of the shipments are being re-exported to India after being labeled as Nepali products, officials said.  

However, traders stopped repackaging lentils and re-exporting them to India after the southern neighbour imposed a 30 percent import duty on the product to protect local industry. This led to a rise in smuggling. The Nepal government imposes a 5 percent agriculture tax on the import of lentils. Officials said smuggling may have swelled due to the higher price in the Indian market.  

According to the customs office at the dry port, Nepal imported 117,693 tonnes of lentils and other pulses worth Rs5.82 billion as of the first week of July. In the same period in the last fiscal year, 63,490 tonnes of lentils worth Rs4.46 billion entered the country.

According to government statistics, the country’s annual pulses production stands at 368,741 tonnes, with lentils forming the bulk of the output. Nepal is close to attaining self-sufficiency in lentils.

Last year, Parsa police seized 40 tonnes of yellow lentils worth more than Rs10 million. The shipment was being transported in six tractors bearing Indian licence plates. In May this year, police seized 20 tonnes of pulses near the border in Nepalgunj.

According to the police, smugglers mainly use the Birgunj and Nepalgunj route to sneak third-country products into India. Birgunj is suspected to be the main gateway for smuggled pulses.

Dhan Bahadur Baruwal, information officer at the customs office, said imports had doubled. Nepal imports pulses from Canada and Australia.

According to Baruwal, the importers are mostly trading firms based in the Parsa-Bara Industrial Corridor. “As the customs office is concerned with only facilitating import procedures, we do not bother about the purpose for which pulses are imported,” he added.

Smuggling thrives through a number of villages along the porous border. According to locals, many traders transport pulses using tractors via Janaki Tol, Budhgai, Amarpatti, Dhore and Prasaunibhatha villages. Although the Armed Police Force and the Nepal Police are stationed along the border, smuggling continues, they said.

Spokesperson for the District Police Office DSP Satya Narayan Thapa said he was not aware of such smuggling in the area. “There are no cases of lentil shipments being seized in these places. However, if such activities come to our notice, we will leave no stone unturned to stop them,” Thapa said.

Published: 10-07-2018 08:30

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