India has removed the provision requiring a plant quarantine test for Nepal-bound goods imported from third countries. Under the rule which has been in force for the last one and a half months, Nepali importers had to clear the quarantine test at Kolkata port.
Chandra Kumar Ghimire, Consul General of Nepal in Kolkata, said the Kolkata Customs’ Commissioner and the Office of the Nepal Consulate General (ONCG) officially agreed to remove the plant quarantine rule. According to him, both the ONCG and importers had been pressurizing the Indian authorities not to implement the provision unilaterally without amending the Nepal-India transit treaty.
The plant quarantine test is an examination of imported products related to plants, agricultural products and timber. Ghimire said there was no provision for implementing the quarantine test in the Nepal-India Transit Treaty as well as Indian laws.
“However, the Indian side had enforced the rule arguing that imported plant products passing through Indian territory could spread communicable diseases there,” Ghimire said.
Due to the provision, importers of agriculture and forest-related products had to undergo a lot of suffering at Kolkata port which is the only route for Nepal-bound cargo coming from third countries. Nepali traders had also been complaining that it increased their costs due to delays in transportation, administrative hassles and increased demurrage. Meanwhile, the Indian authorities have asked for implementation of the rule requiring cargo to be covered with tarpaulin as mentioned in the transit treaty.
Likewise, Nepali importers will have to state “Nepal” as the import destination while obtaining sanitary and phytosanitary certification from the source country. Earlier, importers had been putting down “India” as the import destination while importing goods from third countries.
Similarly, the Indian authorities have agreed to simplify the process of customs clearance at Kolkata port. Previously, they used to keep all the containers in a long queue if any were found with tampered seals. Ghimire said an agreement had been reached to allow containers with intact seals to pass. Most of the products imported from third countries are reported to be transported together.
If the seal on any container was found to be broken, all the other containers would have to wait until an enquiry was completed. This used to result in heavy demurrage for importers.
Last year, traders imported 35,000 containers of goods through Kolkata port while the figure has reached 22,000 as of September this year. Similarly, imports of open and bulk cargo have swelled significantly. Nepal imported 351,000 tonnes of such shipments through Haldia port in the previous year. Industrial raw materials like coal, iron and chemical fertilisers, among others, fall under this category.