The Covid-19 pandemic does not seem to have affected trade through the Benapole port, which has witnessed a rise in both imports and exports compared to the previous year.
In the first nine months of the current 2020-21 financial year, 175,279.4 tonnes of goods have been imported and 145,577 tonnes exported while in 2019-20, 157,428.17 tonnes of goods were imported and 232,982 exported, according to Benapole Customs.
The products imported through Benapole port include raw materials used in factories, readymade garments, chemicals, machinery parts, yarn and various food items. Among the export products are jute and jute products, fish, melamine, readymade garments and Bashundhara tissue.
However, the port has failed to achieve its revenue collection target in the first nine months of 2020-21, falling short by Tk1,524.57 crore.
The revenue target for the period was set at Tk4,588 crore, but the port managed to collect only Tk3,063.43 crore. For the current fiscal year, the target was set at Tk6,136.72 crore.
About Tk40,000 crore worth of goods are imported to and goods worth Tk8,000 crore are exported from India through Benapole port every year. The government collects Tk5,000 crore in revenues from imported goods.
But, for lack of desired infrastructure development, many traders using the port are losing interest, which might have played a role in the falling revenue collection.
Additionally, low import of high duty goods is another cause of declining revenue collection, according to officials concerned.
Regarding the poor export volume, Chairman of India-Bangladesh Landport Import-Export Committee Matiar Rahman said approximately 70% of the total imported items from India come through Benapole.
However, India imports a few products from Bangladesh as they have almost all the products in their country.
Former president of Jashore Chamber of Commerce Mizanur Rahman Khan said traders continue to import goods even during the Covid-19 period. India, as a big country, has all of their necessary goods. So, its government discouraged traders from importing goods.
Mofizur Rahman Sajan, president of the Benapole C&F Association, said, "If the necessary infrastructure is developed, it will be possible to collect a revenue of Tk10,000 crore a year from here."
Aminul Haque, vice-president of the Benapole Port Import-Export Association, said due to the shortage of space inside the port, goods have to be kept in the open sky, which is detrimental to the quality of the products. And there is the fear of theft. Also the crisis of cranes and forkclips in the port is long standing.
Abdul Jalil, Acting Director (Traffic) of Benapole Land Port, said, "Already new land has been acquired for the expansion of Benapole port. Some modern warehouses were also built. There has been a budget for CCTV cameras. A high wall was also built to boost security."
Benapole Customs Commissioner Mohammad Azizur Rahman said, "I wrote to the port authorities to improve the infrastructure facilities. If the capacity of the port increases, the import of goods through Benapole will increase and the revenue collection will also increase."
At present, the revenue collection is declining due to low import of high duty goods and high import of low duty goods. Hopefully, if the Covid-19 situation improves, the revenue collection target will be met, he added.