A solely export-oriented Akhaura Land Port will have full-fledged import activity in no time as the authorities concerned have given the nod to the frontier traders' long-standing demand.
According to the Akhaura Land Customs, 41 types of goods have currently been allowed to be imported from India through Akhaura Land Port.
Fully-functional import activities would bring the government revenue.
Since its inception, only goods have been exported to India through the land port in Brahmanbaria.
Goods worth crores of taka used to go to Agartala in the Indian state of Tripura every day. However, a small number of products are imported once or twice a year, but that is insignificant. As a result, no government revenue comes from this port.
Traders said they were happy since they would be able to import from India through the port.
The land port traders thanked Law Minister Anisul Huq, who was elected from Brahmanbaria-4 (Kasba and Akhaura) constituency, for his initiative and said from now on all goods except those prohibited had been allowed to be imported through this port.
Traders are making all kinds of preparations for importing high-demand products such as motor parts and cosmetics from India from June-July this year.
It was learned that Bangladeshi traders first started exporting goods to Agartala, India, through Akhaura Land Customs Station in 1995.
Then on 13th August 2010, Akhaura Land Port started its journey as a full-fledged port. Since its inception, goods worth crores of taka are exported to India every day.
The list of export products includes stone, rod, cement, fish, plastic and 50 other products which are supplied to the northeastern states of India from Agartala.
However, exports of goods through Akhaura have been declining for the past three years.
While the communication system of other states with Agartala has improved, export trade via Akhaura Land Port has come down. As a result, port traders are worried.
In order to sustain the commercial activities of the port, Bangladeshi traders had been seeking permission to import all high-demand goods from India alongside low-demand ones such as dried fruits and flower brooms, which had permission to be imported through this port.
According to some traders of the land port, the amount of export goods has been declining since 2017. Earlier, various products worth $1 million-$1.2 million used to go to Agartala every day. At the time some 50 products, including rods, cement, stones, fish, dried fish, plastic and coal were exported. Of them, the demand for stones was the highest.
Every day stones worth $.2 million to $.3 million used to be exported. Now the volume as well as the value of stone export has declined.
Currently, only fish, rods, edible oil, plastic and cotton are being exported. At present, on average $.3 million worth of goods is sent to Agartala per day.
In fiscal year 2018-2019, 97.3 tons of dried fish, chilli, rice and flower brooms were imported from India, while the amount was 64.414 tons in financial year 2019-2020.
So far in fiscal 2020-2021, Bangladeshi traders have imported over 43 tons of ginger and dried fruits from India.
Rajib Uddin Bhuiyan, proprietor of Soyeb Trade International at Akhaura Land Port, said, "Since 2017, our export trade has been declining. That is why we have been seeking permission to do import trade."
He said Law Minister Anisul Haque and Akhaura Municipality Mayor Takzil Khalifa had announced that import activities would commence soon.
Sources said the process to obtain permission to import all kids of products from India was almost at the final stage. Following some formalities with the National Board of Revenue, a gazette will be published and Akhaura Land Port will begin import activities and will thus be revived.
Shafiqul Islam, general secretary of Akhaura Land Port Importers and Exporters Association, said the law minister had assured the association last February that all formalities had been completed and a gazette notification would be issued soon.
"We hope to start importing goods from India from June-July," said the leader.
Mubarak Hossain Bhuiyan, president of the Clearing and Forwarding Agents' Association, said the government had spent a lot of money on infrastructure development of Akhaura Land Port.
If goods were imported from India, the government would get revenues, he added.
"The scope of our business will also increase and there will also be employment for many," Mubarak hoped.
According to Mohammad Ali, a revenue officer at Akhaura Land Customs Station, "We have not yet received any official instructions on the import of goods."
"I know it is under process. Once the import of goods starts, we are ready for other official processes, including revenue collection."
On 7 March, M Tariqul Islam, chairman of Bangladesh Land Port Authority, visited the land port.
He said smuggling would stop if all goods were imported through the land port through legal means.
"I am also in favour of providing opportunities for import," added Tariqul Islam. ***