New India directive to slump trade through Benapole: Traders

Selim Reza, Benapole
Published : 23:59, Apr 20, 2019 | Updated : 23:59, Apr 20, 2019

Trade at the Benapole-Petrapole port is expected to be hampered significantly with the Indian government directing its customs authorities at Petrapole to issue clearance for goods passing through the land port.
Traders on both sides of the border fear collapse at the new directives that will not only slow down the clearance process but will also make it more expensive.
Kolkata’s chief customs officer recently issued a letter saying that import-export goods will only be cleared after each truck is unloaded and inspected.
In November 2005, the Indian Customs Department issued a directive to examine shipments of goods at the border. The fresh directive was issued as the previous on was not followed.
All imports from Bangladesh carried on trucks are required to be unloaded at the CDC (Central Warehousing Corporation) warehouse under the directive. The goods will then be checked before being loaded on Indian trucks.
The same process will be followed for goods being exported to Bangladesh, according to the traders.
Every day nearly 600 trucks carrying goods from India enter Bangladesh through the Benapole port, the largest land-port in the country. Likewise around 250 trucks enter India the same way.
As a matter of fact, nearly 80 percent of raw materials for the ready-made garments sector and other industries are imported through this port.
According to the traders, business will be down by almost 50 percent as they fear that it will be impossible to check and give clearance for the nearly 800 trucks every day.
They have demanded intervention from the commerce ministry, saying that the move would not only double the troubles for traders but there will also be a significant hike in the import cost, which will in turn affect the Bangladeshi market.
Benapole customs authorities, however, said that they haven’t yet received an official letter but revival of the decade-old rule will significantly hamper the import-export business.
Prior to this, the goods were not unloaded and examined unless there were specific allegations.
“Trade between both the countries will become difficult if the directives are implemented,” said Petrapole Port Staff Association General Secretary Kartik Chandra.
The India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce Landport sub-committee chief Motiar Rahman admitted to receiving the letter and says that all the concerned authorities including Benapole Customs Commission and C&F Association.
However, Benapole Customs Assistant Commissioner Akram Hossain denied receiving any such letter and said that he heard about the directive from the traders.
“If the issue isn’t addressed, trade through this port will completely collapse,” he added.
The Bangladeshi government earns an estimated Tk 100 billion in revenue very year through the Tk 300 billion trade at the Benapole port.
Given the ease if transport and trade, this is the preferred route for businessmen but they have slowly been turning away in the last few years due to the lack of coordination in the various administrative organisations.