In the first three months of the current fiscal year, Bangladesh's largest land port Benapole collected about Tk751 crore in revenues, falling almost 50 percent short of the target.
From July to September in 2019-20, the government set Tk1,465 crore as the revenue target for the port.
Businesspeople alleged irregularities, mismanagement, corruption and lack of coordination between the customs authority and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) are several reasons behind the revenue deficit.
They said a section of unscrupulous importers imports goods on false declaration in collaboration with some corrupt customs officials. Besides, some BGB members detain the same valid goods that have been released by the customs authority.
However, customs officials said the government's tightened-up grip over the export-import business is one of the chief reasons behind the deficit.
Meanwhile, Lt Col Selim Reza, the captain of the Jashore 49 BGB, claimed they captured goods worth Tk75 crore in the first nine months of this year, which included consignments of cloths imported on misdeclaration.
Businessmen however said, in line with the amounts of goods imported from neighbouring India, the port should earn about Tk5,000 crore annually, they said, alleging that corruption is a bar to earn this amount of revenue.
Benapole, the largest among the 13 operational land ports in the country, enjoys the most developed communication system. Besides, Kolkata is only 84km away from Benapole. Goods-laden trucks enter the port within only seven days of opening the letters of credit.
Because of all these privileges, about 80 percent imports from India are done through this port.
But due to varied rates of duties on the same products at different ports, importers are allegedly choosing the less-charging ones, according to clearing and forwarding agents in Benapole.
Mafizur Rahman Sajan, the president of the Benapole Clearing and Forwarding Agents, said there should be a uniform duty rate at all ports of the country. "Chattgram port charges $4 on the same goods that are charged $4.5 in the Benapole port."
Moreover, the Benapole port has a capacity to handle 38,000 tonne goods whereas at least 1,50,000 tonnes always await their release, he said, adding that this causes a big damage to their valuable products.
"The government's earnings would double the current level if importers were provided with legitimate privileges. And, obviously it is not possible for importers alone to evade government duties."
Mizanur Rahman Khan, a former chairman of the Jashore Chamber of Commerce, said businessmen are not availing of the benefits of the largest land port. "The seven-day port services in a week are confined to papers only."
To expand commerce, there is no alternative to ensuring legitimate privileges and infrastructural development for the importers and exporters and also the elimination of all sorts of harassment at the port, he added.
Abdul Jalil, a deputy director (administration) at the Benapole port, admitted that they have some issues due to space constraints.
"But, we are acquiring new lands and developing them. Benapole would soon turn into a modern port once the development work is done," he said.
Belal Hussain Chowdhury, commissioner of the Benapole Customs, said some opportunist businessmen have left the port because of a proper enforcement of laws and regulations at the port.
Moreover, the import of comparatively high duty goods has reduced through the port, causing the revenue shortfall.