Spice traders say that demand in India is high for Nepali black pepper

Smugglers have turned to black pepper after rising export of betel nuts to India drew attention of government officials.

According to data of Sirsiya Dry Port, Birgunj, import of black pepper has doubled in recent months. Average monthly import of black pepper was 42.37 tons in 2013/14. But import figures have already reached 173.2 tons in the first two months of the current fiscal year.

Black pepper is cheaper by Rs 300 per kg in the Nepali market compared to India. Black pepper costs Rs 900 in Nepal. Traders say heavy difference in price is fueling smuggling of black pepper to India.

Smugglers pocket approximately Rs 30,000 per quintal by exporting black pepper, imported from third countries, to India, according to officials.

Nepal imports black pepper from countries like Vietnam and Sri Lanka, among others, according to Devi Prasad Bhandari, chief customs officer, of the dry port.

Officials of Birgunj Customs Office also said the import of black pepper is on the rise. Last year, 317.2 tons of black pepper was imported to Nepal through the customs office.
Ashok Vaidya, president of Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he was not aware about the smuggling of black pepper to India.

Sources say smugglers send black peppers to India on trucks that return to different Indian cities after unloading goods in Nepal. “They smuggle black pepper through Sirsiya and Inarwa villages during night time,” they added.

Indian traders say payment for smuggled black pepper is made in cash either in Raxaul or in the destination city. “Smuggling of black pepper to India is also promoting black-marketeering of Indian currency in bordering cities,” an Indian trader based in Raxaul said. “Smugglers, who receive payment in Indian currency, are charging Rs 164-167 for IRs 100.”

IRs 100 fetches Rs 160, as per the exchange rate fixed by the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB).

Traders say demand for Nepali black pepper is high in Indian cities like Motihari, Bettiah, Muzzafarpur, Hajipur and Patna, among others.

- Courtesy of Republica Business