Increase in stone import helps Bhomra land port to stay afloat
Despite a drop in fruit imports, the closure of export-import activities from 25 March to 19 June due to Covid-19, and suspension of onion imports since September, the import of stones has led to a recovery in the fortunes of the port
Bhomra land port in Satkhira has been running mainly on stone imports for around 11 months.
Just a year ago, 70-80 truckloads of onions, 100-120 trucks of fruits, and 130-150 trucks of stones would enter the country via the port every day.
But towards the beginning of 2020, the import of stones began to soar with the increase in domestic demand.
Despite a drop in fruit imports, the closure of export-import activities from 25 March to 19 June due to Covid-19, and suspension of onion imports since September, the import of stones has led to a recovery in the fortunes of the port.
Average revenue collection on imported goods per day was around Tk3 crore a year ago versus current levels of Tk2.5 crore.
Towards the beginning of this year, stone import rose to around 180 trucks per day, while the fruit imports dropped to 80-100 trucks. After the lockdown, the number of stone trucks gradually increased to 200, while the number of fruit trucks declined.
According to Akbar Ali, revenue officer at the port, "360-365 trucks of different products are being imported via the port every day, which is roughly the same number of trucks of imported goods that used to enter the country prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. On the other hand, 40-50 trucks of goods are now being exported to India every day. Import of stones is on the rise. 6,810 trucks of stones entered in November, while 1,931 trucks of stones between 1 December and 8 December alone."
The revenue collected from stone import in November stood at more than Tk18.35 crore, and the figure exceeded Tk5.20 crore during the first eight days of the current month, said the revenue officer.
Mostafizur Rahman Nasim, general secretary of Bhomra C&F Agents Association, said that 300-350 trucks were now entering the country through the port every day, returning to pre-lockdown trends.
Aside from stones, fruits, spices, including dried peppers, ginger and turmeric, and ceramic raw materials are also being imported.
Although 26 kinds of products are imported via the port, only stones were coming in on a regular basis, he added.
Maqsood Khan, treasurer of the C&F Agents Association, said, "Imported fruits have revenue potential, but these have declined through Bhomra port. Only 20-30 truckloads of fruit are coming in every day."
Onion imports remained suspended due to the restriction imposed by the Indian government, he further said.
"The reason behind the decline in fruit import is the discrimination in revenue collection. Taxes are imposed per carton of imported fruits only in this port," said Maqsood.
Amir Mamun, assistant commissioner at Bhomra Port Customs Station, spoke about the revenue potential of imported fruits.
Amongst exported goods, 127 trucks of rice bran oil, 54 trucks of various products of Pran Group, and 48 trucks of jute yarn were sent abroad in November, according to the Office of the Revenue Officer of the port.
No revenue is levied on exported items.
Biswajit Sarkar, sub-inspector of Bhomra Immigration Police, said passenger travel through Bhomra Port had been suspended since the beginning of the Covid-19 situation in the country.
It was still uncertain travel (via this port) would be resumed, he added.