BIRGUNJ, Jan 27: After betel nut, pea and black pepper, smugglers seem to have turned their attention to dried dates.
A team of police deployed by Ward Police Office, Shreepur, last week seized 16 quintal of dried dates in 32 sacks while being smuggled to India in a truck. The police nabbed the driver and helper of the truck. The driver was carrying invoice of puffed rice issued by Krishna Flour and Spice Factory located in Ranighat, Birgunj.
There is a high demand for dried dates in India. The southern neighbor earlier used to import dried dates from Pakistan. But it has severed trade ties with Pakistan since the Pulwama attack in February last year. Taking advantage of the situation, unscrupulous traders have started importing dried dates from Pakistan and smuggling the same into India.
Officials of Birgunj customs say the import of peas and dried dates is on the rise this year. Though import of black pepper has decreased this year, it is still higher than our domestic demand, they added.
Export of betel nuts to India started increasing suddenly five years ago. After security agencies swung into action against traders who were exporting betel nuts imported from other countries to India by producing certificate of origin, some traders switched to black pepper. Lately, peas have become another item that is being my smuggled into India.
According to statistics of Dry Port Customs Office, Birgunj, Nepal imported 45,103.21 tons of peas in first six months of FY2017/18. The imports grew year-on-year by 79.33% to 80,885.23 in FY2018/19 and 22.19% to 98,835.71 tons in FY2019/20.
Similarly, Nepal imported 632.41 tons of dried dates in first six months of FY2017/18. Imports grew year-on-year to 694.21 tons in FY2018/19. Traders say the import is line with the domestic demand. However, the import grew by nearly 12 times to 8,631.24 tons over the first six months of the current fiscal year.
Though smuggling of black peppers has declined compared to last year, it has not completely stopped. Data compiled by the customs office shows, 3,189.98 tons of black pepper was imported in the country in the first six months of FY2017/18. It grew by 20% year-on-year to 3,799.43 tons in FY2018/19. However, imports have declined to 1,968.76 tons in the first six months of the current fiscal year.