Exports to India via Benapole land port have been more than one-fourth of imports from the country for the past five fiscal years.
During this period, Bangladesh brought in 88.89 lakh tonnes of goods, and exported only 18.72 lakh tonnes through the largest land port in the country's southwestern district of Jashore.
Products imported through Benapole include industrial raw materials, readymade garments, chemicals, machinery parts, yarn, and assorted food items.
Exported goods include jute and jute products, fish, melamine, readymade garments, and tissue paper.
According to Mizanur Rahman Khan, former president of Jashore Chamber of Commerce and Industries, importers prefer to bring in products through the land port as cargo transport by road is easier.
"But the port is left out in the cold. The government should prioritise it more," he added.
Mizanur believes that imports through the port will increase further if the infrastructure of Benapole port is developed, which will not only benefit businessmen, but will also boost the government's revenue collection.
India exports goods worth Tk40,000 crore per year through the port, while exports to India amount to Tk8,000 crore. The government pockets Tk5,000 crore revenue on imports.
However, the revenue collection target for the current fiscal year has been set at Tk6,024 crore. In the last six months, the collection shortfall amounted to Tk1,106 crore.
According to Matiar Rahman, chairman of the India-Bangladesh Landport Import-Export Committee, Bangladesh does 70% of its imports and exports through Benapole. But businessmen's interest in the route is waning owing to poor infrastructure.
"As a result, the government's revenue target for the port remains unfulfilled. If the capacity of the port was increased, the revenue through Benapole would be doubled," he added.
Aminul Haque, vice-president of the Benapole Port Importers and Exporters Association, said products are stockpiled under the open sky due to a shortage of space inside the port.
He said, "Sun and rain destroy products. There are also concerns about thefts. To make matters worse, there is also a long-standing crisis of cranes and forklifts in the port."
Benapole C&F Association President Mofizur Rahman Sajan said that with development of infrastructure in the port, revenue collection could shoot up to Tk10,000 crore.
When contacted, Abdul Jalil, Acting Director (Traffic) of Benapole port, said they have already acquired land for port expansion, and a few modern warehouses have also been built.
He said the port is surrounded by high fences to deter theft incidents, and the premises will soon come under closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera coverage.
Benapole Customs Commissioner Md Azizur Rahman said, "We support the businessmen's demands, which are perfectly logical and reasonable. I have already written to the port authorities about infrastructural improvements.
"Enhanced capacity will help boost import revenues as well."