Customs officials say they have not received circular of the new decision
BHAIRAHAWA, July 7: While the government has revoked its decision to carry out pesticide testing for vegetables and fruits imported from India citing lack of adequate lab facilities, vegetables and fruits from Bhairahawa Customs Office are being imported only after lab test of samples.
Kali Ram Poudel, an information officer at the Bhairahawa Customs Office, said that the office was conducting pesticide testing as per the previous decision as it has not been notified about the new decision by the Department of Customs.
“We are allowing only the consignments of fruits and vegetables with certificates, which state that the fruits and vegetables are pesticides-free and consumable, to enter Nepal," he said, adding: "The notice of mandatory pesticide examination and quarantine on fresh vegetables and fruits in concerned customs point while importing was published in the gazette on June 17 and it is still in force."
Traders have been testing Indian vegetables and fruits for contamination of pesticides at Kalimati based Rapid Bioassay for Pesticide Residue Laboratory (RBPR) before importing on a daily basis. According to the customs office, it used to take a day for the lab test of sample earlier. But it takes comparatively less time now. The report of the test done in the morning comes by 2 to 3 pm of the same day.
“We allow trucks carrying fruits and vegetables to enter Nepal only after we receive email from the Central Laboratory Unit, Kalimati, certifying that vegetables and fruits are pesticide-free and consumable,” Poudel added. “Forty-five trucks carrying potatoes, onions and fruits entered Nepal on Friday and another 30 were allowed to enter on Saturday following the same procedure."
According to the customs office, only a few samples sent for lab test from Bhairahawa contained pesticide residue. An average of 20-25 trucks of vegetables and 40-50 trucks of potatoes and onions enter Nepal from the Bhairahawa customs point on a daily basis.
While there has been no drop in import of potatoes, onions and fruits after the mandatory provision for carrying out pesticide testing came into force, import of green vegetables has come down to half, says Poudel. Customs officials presume this is because green vegetables have higher pesticide residue compared to other vegetables and fruits.
Bijaya Govinda Shrestha, a member of Bhairahawa Civil Society, said that the government revoked the mandatory provision of carrying out pesticide testing on fruits and vegetables to kill Nepali farmers and under Indian pressure. "The sudden plunge in import of green vegetables from India indicates that they are pesticide-laden," he told Republica. "Rather than revoking the decision, the government should equip customs points with modern laboratories."