New Delhi has set stringent import ban on betel nuts, a key ingredient for “Paan” mouth freshener commonly used in India. According to officials of Border Trade Merchant Association (BTMA), the step of banning betel nuts was taken in an attempt to control illegal trade between India and Myanmar.
Since Monday, Indian border forces have banned the crossing of vehicles on the Myanmar-Indian Border Bridge as per reports in Myanmar Times. No specific reasons were given regarding the ban of betel nuts, but sources claim that the move is aimed at countering the illegal entry of betel nuts into India.
Betel nuts are transported yearly to India via the Tamu Border Trade Station and Reed Border Trade Station. In 2017-18 about 40,000 tonnes of betel nuts were exported, according to BTMA officials. However, those exports also include illegitimate betel nuts procured from Indonesia, which are later transported to Myanmar via the Thailand border.
The point to be noted is that Myanmar only produces 10,000 tonnes of betel nuts a year so the remaining exports of about 30,000 tonnes of betel nuts is illegally transported from Indonesian, said the BTMA officials.
Indian dealers purchase betel nuts from Indonesia and then transfer the consignment into Myanmar via the Myawaddy and Mae Sot border. The Indians then cooperate with Myanmar traders to transport the goods across to India via the Tamu and Reed border crossings.
Local farmers in Myanmar cannot compete against the low-cost, illegal betel nuts from Indonesia even though the quality of Myanmar betel nuts is much superior. Due to illegal imports of betel nuts from Indonesia, businesses in Myanmar have suffered tremendously and forced to slash prices. Due to this illegal malpractice, the legitimate farmers and merchants of Myanmar who export betel buts to India are experiencing a steep downfall in demand for locally cultivated nuts.
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