Regional Value Chains in Agriculture can be game changer for Eastern South Asia and common consumers and producers in Tripura and other states in the North East can majorly gain from it

“Trade has to happen for the benefit of the people” said V. G. Jenner, Special Secretary and Director, Department of Industries and Commerce, Government of Tripura. He was speaking at an event tiled Public-Private Dialogue on Trade Facilitation between Tripura and Bangladesh on Specific Agricultural Commodities organised jointly by CUTS International and the Department in Agartala today. He went on to flag that the window of opportunity in terms of connectivity and trade in the Eastern South Asia region, that Tripura is a part of, is really opening up an now is the right time to make a move.

CUTS, with support from The Asia Foundation, has undertaken a focused study looking at possibilities of trade in specific agricultural commodities between Tripura and Bangladesh. Prithviraj Nath, Associate Director, CUTS, shared that the study found that there are huge opportunities for trade in agri produce across the borders. This is particularly relevant given that Tripura, at present gets a lot of agricultural commodities from far away Indian states including West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya at a relatively higher cost and longer time that is required for transport from these origin points. All this, while such items are available at a much lower price across the border in Bangladesh.

The study found that on an average, prices for everyday agricultural items in Golbari market in Tripura are 42 percent higher than in Anandabazar market, in Brahmanberia which is just 65Kms across in Bangladesh. Transport costs for bringing in vegetables from far flung places like Kolkata (1600 kms) and Guwahati (540 kms) is much higher and hovers around Rs 5 per kg and in the incidence of rains and damaged road conditions, such costs are higher. The same could be brought in from the Narshinhdi, the agricultural hub in Bangladesh merely 85 kms away at a cost of only Rs 2 per kg. This is presently not happening because there are regulatory barriers to import agricultural commodities like potato, green chillies, tomato and brinjal, the four products that this study looked at. Prithviraj further shared that while such regulations towards ensuring safety of plant, animal and human life in India are legitimate; there are ways to facilitate trade in such items without compromising the safety. Focused advocacy and capacity building needs to be undertaken to this end and CUTS is working t that end. He added that Regional Value Chains in Agriculture can be game changer for Eastern South Asia and common consumers and producers in Tripura and the North East can majorly gain from it.

O. T. Singh, Assistant Director, Regional Plant Quarantine Station, Kolkata, Ministry of Agriculture, India, shared that import of such products are possible given appropriate notifications are made under the Plant Quarantine Order after due Pest Risk Analysis. He added t hat this process will be expedited if the Bangladesh Quarantine Authority approached the Indian Quarantine Authority mentioning specific items and requesting market access for such items.
M. L. Debnath, President, Tripura Chamber of Commerce was joined by local traders and business associations in appealing to all concerned, with a special request to CUTS to take this up, an issue that the Tripura Chamber has been pushing for quite some time, with appropriate authorities and institutions so that the common people can have access to lower priced, better and more items.
Mrs. Swapna Debnath, Additional Director welcomed this initiative by CUTS and said that a similar exercise needs to be undertaken in terms of export of possible agri-horticulture items to Bangladesh and beyond from Tripura.

Md. Moniruzzaman, First Secretary, Bangladesh Assistant High Commission, Agartala, shared that the Bangladesh government is very appreciative of the great relationship between Tripura and Bangladesh and will extend all help to facilitate this market access.
The event was concluded with the action agenda for CUTS, Department of Industries and Commerce and local chambers to jointly push for this trade facilitation and market access leading to benefits ffor the common consumers and producers. It was attended by officials from the department of Industries and Commerce, local entrepreneurs, PRAN group, Royal Latex, Tripura Bamboo Mission, media and other dignitaries.