Bangladeshi exporters and clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents have stopped importing goods from India through Benapole-Petrapole land port since Wednesday as India has not been taking any products from Bangladesh for the last 100 days.
Syed Neyamul Islam, additional commissioner of Benapole Customs House, confirmed it.
Export-import through the port stopped on March 22 due to coronavirus pandemic. Then after several meetings between the port users of the two countries, the import of Indian products started again on June 7. But no Bangladeshi goods have been able to enter India.
According to sources at the port, at least over 200 export products-laden trucks have been waiting at the port to enter India since June 7.
The quality of the products is deteriorating and the exporters are also facing losses as the trucks are stuck at the port. Under the circumstances, Bangladeshi exporters tried again and again to resume the exports, but they failed. Though Indian authorities said 'yes' to exporting their products to Bangladesh, they refused to import any goods from Bangladesh.
From June 7 to June 30, 4,200 trucks carrying different products from India have entered Bangladesh. On the other hand, India has not allowed entry to even a single truck from Bangladesh during this time.
Aminul Haq, vice-president of Benapole Port Exporters and Importers Association, said, "India is not taking any products from Bangladesh showing health security concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, though the import from India has resumed, nothing has been exported from here. There is a big trade imbalance between the two countries. This imbalance is increasing as India has halted the export from Bangladesh. Despite our repeated efforts, we have failed to resume the exports. Under the circumstance, we have been compelled to halt the import from India since Wednesday."
According to Bangladeshi exporters, though the central government of India has given approval of export-import, the export from Bangladesh is stuck by the decision of West Bengal's government. The situation will not improve unless pressure is not given on the state government from the higher level of the central government, the exporters think. The exports from Bangladesh have been halted for more than three months. Businessmen have been getting export orders from buyers but they cannot send the products. Export items worth crores of taka have been damaged.
"Apart from the Indian government's attitude, the West Bengal's Bongaon municipality mayor's interference in export-import activities and keeping the goods-laden trucks, which come from different states, in Kalitala parking in Bongaon forcefully for collecting extortion money have created obstacles in export-import activities. We have our backs against the wall now," said the exporters.
Tapan Kumar Chakraborty, chairman of the Bangladesh Land Port Authority, said, "The Indian authorities are not giving permission for entry of trucks carrying export goods from Bangladesh. We have told them several times through different media to keep the export activities normal. But due to the lockdown, they are not giving permission. India has extended the lockdown till July 31."
He further said, "The discussion at the government level has been going on to keep the export-import activities normal. I hope the problem will be solved soon because we have kept the import activities normal."
Motiar Rahman, director of the port sub-committee of the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "We have informed The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) about the issue. The FBCCI leaders have said discussions have been going on between the two countries at government level. They are working on it. They hope the issue will be resolved soon."
Mofijur Rahman Sajan, president of Benapole Custom Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association, said, "We applied to the chief secretary of The West Bengal government Alapan Bhattacharya on June 24 for resuming exports from Bangladesh. The businessmen are incurring losses as the exports have remained halted at the port. So we have sent a letter to the West Bengal government in this regard."
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), 10 percent of the total foreign trade of Bangladesh is with India alone. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the trade volume between the countries was $890 crore. Of the amount, Bangladesh exported goods worth only $125 crore. So the trade imbalance between the two countries stands at $765 crore.
The items, which are usually exported through Benapole, include woven garments, knit garments, knit fabrics, prawns, different kinds of fish, raw jute, jute products, tissue, betel nuts, cotton rag, float glass, battery, ceramic tiles, soap, bone powder, rawhide, processed leather, medicine, vegetable, fruits, tea, petroleum byproducts, handicraft products and cement.