Shipments across the eastern border resume after India lifts restrictionsSix trucks carrying tea and four trucks carrying large cardamom entered India on Tuesday.
India on Monday allowed Nepali cargo trucks to proceed to the Panitanki border point in West Bengal after being stranded on the bridge over the Mechi River for six days.
According to the Mechi Customs Office, six trucks carrying tea and four trucks carrying large cardamom crossed the border on Tuesday.
On Monday evening, six trucks laden with tea and five trucks laden with large cardamom rolled across the border. Nine trucks carrying broom grass bound for Hariyana, India also crossed the border.
The government of the Indian state of West Bengal had prevented the Nepali trucks from crossing the eastern border point of Kakarbhitta into India over coronavirus fears. Trucks carrying goods into Nepal faced no restrictions.
According to traders, border obstacles were removed following a direct order from the chief secretary of West Bengal.
Traders said the West Bengal police had prevented entry citing orders from 'higher-ups' even though the central government of India had directed Panitanki Customs to allow international border trade with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh despite the lockdown.
“Restrictions on the movement of exports were removed after the Nepal Embassy in New Delhi requested West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha to permit free passage,” said customs officials.
Chief of the Mechi Customs Office at Kakarbhitta, Dhrubaraj Bishwokarma, said that export restrictions had been withdrawn completely.
From April 8 to May 8, the West Bengal government had imposed a complete lockdown at the border, prohibiting shipments to and from Nepal to prevent the spread of the virus.
A month later, West Bengal verbally informed Nepali authorities that movement across the border would be permitted, but it only allowed one-way traffic into Nepal.
Trucks transporting cargo to Nepal were forbidden from returning to India after making their deliveries.
According to traders, the export restrictions were placed because West Bengal plans to ban Nepali tea in India. Tea associations in Darjeeling have been urging their government to ban Nepali tea for a long time. They have been accusing traders of exporting Nepali orthodox tea by branding it with the logo of Darjeeling, India.
Suresh Mittal, president of the Nepal Tea Producers Association, Jhapa, said that Indian tea traders have been alleging that the identity of Darjeeling tea was at stake because Nepal's orthodox tea was being exported with the logo of Darjeeling.
Some Indian traders have been shipping Nepali tea to third countries under the Darjeeling Tea brand.
Orthodox tea from Ilam in Nepal tastes better than Darjeeling tea, Nepali traders claim. The terrain and weather conditions of Darjeeling and Ilam are nearly identical. That is why Ilam tea is better than the Darjeeling product, traders said.
The taste of tea produced in the upper parts of the country, including Ilam, is different from that of Darjeeling, they said.
Tea is also one of the key exportable Nepali products. According to the Mechi Customs Office, Rs4 billion worth of the product is shipped to India annually. Demand for CTC tea produced in the Tarai is high in India.