Trade through Akhaura Land Port in Brahmanbaria, one of the largest and 100% export-oriented ports in the country, is reviving after exports dropped by half during the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Exports to India have increased and goods worth $3-3.5 lakh on average are exported every day to Agartala, the capital city of the northeast Indian state of Tripura.
Businessmen said Indian traders had stopped importing rod-cement because construction work had been suspended in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Fish exports were also suspended for over three months, but now rod-cement is being exported, and fish export has also doubled.
Since traders were not importing goods, the port has survived only by exporting goods since its establishment. However, according to the Akhaura Land Port Importers and Exporters Association the traders had incurred $8 million in losses due to the epidemic.
Faruk Mia, general secretary of the Fish Exporters Association of Akhaura Land Port, said, "Coronavirus had reduced fish exports to 35-40 tonnes per day but the demand for fish has increased for a month and a half now. 70-80 tonnes of different species of fish, excluding Hilsa and shrimp, are currently being exported to India daily, at $2.5 per kg.
Goods exported through Akhaura Port are supplied from the state of Tripura to seven states in the north-east of India. Although the port was launched as a full-fledged port on 13 August 2010, the port started exporting goods to India through the land customs station in 1995. Although the government does not receive any revenues from the port's export trade, it does earn some foreign currency.
Since its inception, about 50 products, including rods, cement, stone, plastic, fish, cotton, edible oil and foodstuffs worth crores of taka have been exported to Agartala every day through Akhaura Land Port.
But with the development of road and rail communication between the states of Tripura and the north-eastern states, export trade at Akhaura Port began to decline. Indian traders stopped importing high-demand stones. The volume of rod-cement imports also reduced.
Despite the decline in exports, at least 50 trucks worth Tk1.5-2 crore a day were exported to India. But after the coronavirus outbreak, the volume of exports decreased further and only 25-30 trucks of goods are exported to India daily. The port was operational thanks to the export of edible oil, cement, fish and food items.
Rajib Uddin Bhuiyan, the proprietor of Suyeb Trade International in Akhaura Land Port, said, "Our export trade initially collapsed due to coronavirus, but now the volume of export is on the rise. If this trend continues, traders will be able to recover their financial losses."
Shafiqul Islam, general secretary of the Akhaura Land Port Importers and Exporters Association, said, "Indian traders have stopped importing edible oil, but increased the volume of fish imports. Thanks to this, Akhaura land port is returning to normal."