‘Easing regulations on veggies from Bangladesh can benefit NE consumers’

CUTS study sees savings potential by nixing non-tariff barriers

New Delhi, August 16:  

Allowing import of vegetables such as brinjal, tomato, green chillies and potatoes from Bangladesh by removing non-tariff barriers could help Indian households in the North-Eastern States make savings in their monthly vegetable bills, a study by consumer rights body CUTS International has said.

Unrestricted import of just the four identified commodities into India could help a family in Agartala save over ₹350 in its monthly vegetables bill, the case study on ‘Promoting trade between India and Bangladesh in specific agricultural commodities’ supported by Asia Foundation estimated.

In addition to the infrastructure bottlenecks, which remains one of the major hurdles to enhanced cross-border trade between the countries, non-tariff factors such as regulations, non-harmonisation of standards and certification requirements, the lack of institutional as well as stakeholder capacity, negatively impact trans-boundary cooperation and exchange, the study said.

“We have shared the early recommendations from this study with government officials. The study will be finalised with inputs from the advocacy dialogues being carried out with stakeholders in both countries,” Prithviraj Nath, Associate Director, CUTS International, told BusinessLine.

Local production

The North-East contributes only 3-4 per cent of the total production of brinjal, tomato, green chillies and potatoes in the country, the study said. In terms of productivity, these States rank well below the national average.

“While official figures show that the region has a surplus of production compared to its consumption, the field survey conducted by CUTS International in select NE States reveal that these States had to depend on the rest of India to meet their consumption needs,” it said.

With limited water and rail connectivity, the bulk of the commodities in the NE States is usually transported by road, which significantly adds to the cost of the vegetable.

“One of the probable ways to address the issue would be to facilitate their import from Bangladesh, which is much closer to the NE States,” the study suggested.

There may be possible concerns over the export of brinjal, as Bangladesh has allowed the cultivation of Bt Brinjal, which is banned in India. “However, there is no record of any export of Bt Brinjal variety from Bangladesh to any country. It may require special checks during import-export procedure which would be an additional barrier,” the study said.

Saving potential

Giving an estimate on the average monthly saving of families in the NE States if some of the cheaper vegetables are allowed from Bangladesh, the study says that a family of four in Agartala could save ₹109.44 on tomatoes, ₹170.24 on potatoes, ₹39.36 on green chillies and ₹47.04 on brinjals.

The calculations have been made comparing prices in Bangladesh with those in Golbazar in Agartala.

(This article was published on August 16, 2017)

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