The Indian government has decided to allow imports of goods from Bangladesh by rail in sealed containers with a view to boosting bilateral trade.
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) of India has set out rules in this regard, reports Indian newspaper LiveMint.
At present, India uses its rail to only export goods to Bangladesh. Containers coming to Bangladesh from India return empty after completing delivery.
The Bangladesh High Commissioner in New Delhi earlier pointed out to the Indian authorities that containers travelling from India to Bangladesh by rail are returning empty after delivering goods. Companies in Bangladesh also expressed interest in using such empty containers to export their products to India.
The latest development will allow the current infrastructure – which is being used solely for imports from India – to be utilised for exports from Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi exporters have hailed this decision by India, saying this would reduce their business cost, transport hassles, and also will save time.
Use of returning empty containers for import of goods into India will apply to units of the Container Corporation of India carried on trains operated by Indian Railways.
The movement of the train will be monitored through the government's electronic tracking system.
The Container Corporation of India has to ensure that the import consignments go directly to the customs depots, according to the framework set by the CBIC.
Speaking on this, Classic Group Director (operations) Tahsin Azim Shezan told The Business Standard that his company had been exporting apparel items to India for the past five years, and the volume of exports increased gradually and stood at $6 million last year.
"We are facing a lot of challenges in sending goods by trucks through Benapole land port as it requires some additional documents like the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) document, while those are not needed if anyone ships goods through seaports," he said.
He also mentioned that such additional documents also increase their business cost.
Shezan expressed hope that if the exports are made through rail cargos, shipments will be easier and they would require fewer middlemen.
According to Export Promotion Bureau data, Bangladesh's exports to India registered a 59% growth year-on-year in the July-April period of the current fiscal year to over $1.70 billion, with apparel sector accounting for $591.41 million – up from $ 368.16 million during the corresponding period a year ago.