Monday, December 1, 2014

Nathula continues to make sense; Border Trade more than doubles this season VISHNU NEOPANEY

GANGTOK: The ninth season of border trade between India and China across Nathula closed on Thursday, 27 November. Trading, despite being hamstrung by poor roads and a lethargic bureaucracy, continues to thrive, having registered an impressive doubling of volume this season. Against a total trading of slightly over Rs. 8 crores in the 2013 season, border trade over Nathula this year registered an impressive spike and notched up a grand Rs. 16.04 crores in exports [from Sikkim] alone. The official figure for imports from the Tibetan Autonomous Region are staggeringly lower in comparison – Rs. 1.02 crores this year, lower even than last year’s Rs. 1.17 crores.
The closing ceremony of trade in this season was organized by Tibetan traders at Rinchengang, the trade mart on their side of the border. Unlike in the past where the closing ceremony was organised on the Indian side by the Department of Commerce & Industries, Government of Sikkim, the Chinese have this time opted to organise the programme on their side of the border, as a goodwill gesture, an official press communiqué from the Department of Commerce & Industries informs. More than 150 traders from Sikkim travelled to Richengang on Thursday to participated in the closing ceremony which was presided by senior officials from TAR and hosted by Tibetan traders.
As mentioned earlier, this season saw the most prolific scale of exports from Sikkim. Traders from Sikkim shipped goods worth Rs. 16,04,43,830 to TAR. This is a 107% increase over last year’s Rs. 7,84,96,435 in exports. Imports from TAR were to the tune of Rs 1,02,53,400, a 12 percent decrease from last year’s Rs. 117.30 lakh.
Sikkim traders imported primarily six items - carpets, readymade garments, blankets, shoes, Jacket and quilts, and exported more than 13 items - Vegetable Oil, Rice, Processed Food, Canned Food, Textiles, and Copper items.
Border Trade over Nathula is clearly finding its rhythm, now consistently posting impressive figures. When it had started in 2006, exports barely crossed Rs. 27 lakhs while imports did not even break the lakh mark. Further, there were two trading seasons [2010 and 2011] when the official scale of imports was nil! The import list was expanded in the year 2012 and imports promptly crossed the Rs. One crore mark. All this while, exports had been climbing despite the weather, roads and babudom. All of these continue to remain areas of concern, but so long as the border remains open for trade, trading will find a way to sustain itself. The spirits are even higher at Nathula now given that the border pass will soon also be sending across pilgrims from India to Kailash-Mansarovar in Tibet…

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