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Nu 8.8mn collected as fine

This is since the BAFRA banned the import of green chilies, cauliflowers, and beans from India in May 2016

The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) has collected approximately Nu 8.8mn as penalty from people caught illegally importing green chilies, cauliflowers and beans from India since the ban on the import of these vegetables was imposed in May 2016.

The ban was put in place after detecting high pesticide content in green chilies, cauliflowers and beans that were imported from India.

BAFRA seized around 80 metric tons of these banned vegetables. The highest seizure and penalty collection was from Phuentsholing, followed by Thimphu and Gelephu. More than 100 people were imposed fined.

BAFRA’s Director General Namgay Wangchuk said citizens should not consume banned vegetables and that they should report of any illegal sale of vegetables for the safety of the nation to BAFRA or call at the toll free number 155.

Among the many mandates of BAFRA, he added that maintaining public safety is one of the important responsibilities and such consumption has impact on the health of the public, health sector’s expenditure and productivity of the people.

Meanwhile, BAFRA has also notified that due to high content of pesticide residues, the temporary ban on the import of fresh vegetables – cauliflower, beans and green chilies – will continue. BAFRA stated that the test results of the three vegetables, generated over the past two years, consistently show pesticide residues above the MRL (Maximum Residue Limit).

“There are already many Bhutanese individuals complaining of the color coming off certain vegetables while washing or cooking them. Fruits are also a popular target with color being used to give them a better look and higher price. The concerns of colors are that very often they are toxic and can harm the health of people,” Namgay Wangchuk said.

Accordingly, BAFRA’s Director said the ban cannot be lifted as the test still shows positive and pesticide content beyond human consumption.

BAFRA maintained that they will also be conducting field tests on other vegetables imported into Bhutan from all entry points, namely Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar.

Reiterating that food safety is a shared responsibility between public and government, the Director said the public should be more concerned about their own health as it would damage and affect their health slowly if they consume such vegetables.

BAFRA also maintained that they are periodically conducting test and also creating awareness via various social media platforms and conducts highway checking of vehicles around the country. During the past two years of the ban, BAFRA stated that it has been monitoring the pesticide residues in these vegetables using Rapid Test Kits and periodically carrying out laboratory tests outside the country.

Meanwhile, according to the revised food rules and regulations, the seized vegetables are charged 10 times the local rate multiplied by weight seized to levy penalty to illegal importers.

Tshering from Thimphu