The taxation procedure for imported and exported products has decreased significantly at the Chattogram Customs House during the first four days of the ongoing general holidays declared to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
During March 26-29, the number of bills of entry for imports in the customs house decreased by around 98 percent, and that for exports decreased by around 44 percent.
According to sources at the Chattogram Custom House, the C&F (Clearing and Forwarding) agents submitted 188 bills of entry for imported goods in that period and 11,146 bills of entry for export products.
Customs sources said on an average 2,000 bills of entry for import and 5,000 bills of entry for export products are submitted in the Chattogram Custom House every day. But during the first four days of the general holidays, average 47 bills of entry were submitted for import and 2,786 for export daily.
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) decided to continue the activities of Chattogram Custom House for essential products only, including food and medical products, during the 10-day general holidays in a limited form from March 26 to April 04.
Later, on March 30, the NBR issued an order to include industrial raw material on the customs house's list of imported products to be released.
Kazi Mohammad Ziauddin, additional commissioner of Chattogram Custom House, told The Business Standard, "Customs house has been carrying out a limited number of activities as per the directive of the NBR for releasing only essential imported products. As a result, the number of applications to release products has decreased significantly."
"On the other hand, the main seaport of the country has been kept open for 24 hours a day to continue export and import," he added.
However, businessmen said they find it difficult to release their goods due to the limited customs activities, which can have a negative impact on the supply of goods in the country. The port can face long term congestion of ships and containers, which can increase the cost of business and subsequently the price of the products.
"We have already sent a letter to the NBR asking for permission to release other products. Otherwise, it will create a problem in the supply of goods. Ramadan is coming, so we have to think these matters through," said Mahabubul Alam, president of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
"Currently, the main problem is that there are no vehicles to transport goods. We have informed the ministry concerned about the matter, and have asked them to normalise the number of trucks," he added.
Abdus Salam, first vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said, "The situation is unusual due to the coronavirus outbreak. There are some old orders for the readymade garments industry. Those products are being exported now. Many foreign buyers cancelled their orders. As a result, export has decreased."