Lack of infrastructure troubles businessmen

Govinda Chettri

Jhapa, June 28:

Export of food items through the Panitanki transit point in India has gone down due to lack of necessary facilities. Keshav Pandey, chairman of Mechi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), said that the major eastern transit point via Kaankadbhitta is Panitanki, but the transit point is without any basic facility. There are no godowns, laboratories, banks, parking areas and postal service. Businessmen complained that their major problem is lack of a food laboratory. Since the Indian government has made it a policy to check on food items before allowing their import, businessmen have to send all food products to a laboratory at Kolkata, which is 550 kilometres away from Panitanki. It takes at least seven days for the lab results to come back and until that time, trucks loaded with food have to be parked outside the customs office.

P T Yalmo, invigilator at the customs office, said that the nearest food laboratory is at Kolkata. "We send the samples via registered parcels and accept the results sealed. It might take seven to 20 days for results to come back and we know that it creates problems for businessmen, but we cannot do anything for it," he added. Yalmo said that tea, coffee

and food items made from wheat are prohibited for export to India without testing in the food laboratory. He added that during the rainy season, there is a high possibility that samples get wet and results come as negative. He gave an example that a sample from a Nepali businessman was rejected and he had to bear huge losses, as he had to keep the truckload at the customs office from June 4 to 8.

Since there are no godowns, they cannot even unload their trucks and businessmen have to pay the customs office for parking trucks on a daily basis. Moreover, the Panitanki customs office rejects cash revenue worth more than Rs 100 and for more, businessmen have to make bank drafts or vouchers. For this, they have to go to a bank at Siliguri, which is 45 kilometres from the customs office.