Traders have stopped importing stones through Tamabil Land Port in Sylhet since 7 January, responding to a government decision to use an "Auto SMS" measurement system for importing the hard mineral, port officials said.
"The suspension is costing the government Tk50 lakh in revenue every day," said Mahfuzul Islam Bhuiyan, deputy director of the port.
The government installed the new measurement system at the port to modernise it.
However, importers complain the new measurement system is time consuming and not compatible with the Indian measurement system, which still uses the manual method to measure goods. This is causing them losses in the stone trade.
"The measurements will never be the same from a digital system on one side and a manual one on the other," said Sylhet Chamber of Commerce and Industry Director, Md Sorwar Husssain Sedu.
The automated SMS system causes delays in measurement as it requires traders to provide data once again for each goods-carrying vehicle that arrives at the port.
"It is doubtful whether 200 vehicles will be able to enter the port daily," Sedu said.
"It is not possible to do business risking such losses so we stopped importing stones without a solution in sight," he added.
Traders also complain that Indian exporters measure the stone quantity using tapes but by the time the stones arrive in Bangladesh, the weight decreases as the stones have water and soil mixed with them. Hence, if an automatic measuring system is used in Bangladesh, it puts traders in a difficult spot as the measurements do not match the numbers from the manual system. They have to pay extra fines for the mismatch and even if the weight is less, they have to pay for the weight registered on the Indian side.
Tamabil Coal-Stone Importer Group President Liaquat Ali said, "We have no problem in the digitisation of the land port. However, the method of importing stones is different. It's a business between two countries. If there is a digital system in one country and a manual system in the other, there will be problems in trading. We will inevitably face huge losses."
He said there will be no issues if automation is introduced in both countries.
Tamabil Land Port's Deputy Director Mahfuzul said work on automation is being done on the Indian side and it will also be introduced there soon.