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The Financial Express

Import-export thru' Benapole halted since March 23

Concerns mount


| Updated: June 05, 2020 11:25:59


File photo (UNB) File photo (UNB)

Import-export activities with India through the country's largest land-port Benapole have remained almost stalled since March 23, raising serious concerns over supply chain disruption of essentials.

Some 5,000 goods-laden trucks are waiting to enter Bangladesh through the port from Petrapole for last 71 days.

As a result, many goods with short date of expiry have already been damaged inside those trucks, sources said.

Several correspondences between diplomatic channels, customs officials, and clearing and forwarding agents failed to bring any result to resume trade through the port.

Resistance of the local villagers on Indian side of the land-port and lack of cooperation of the West Bengal government are responsible for halting Tk 350 billion trade through the major port, they added.

Customs authority of Benapole said local importers will have to bear huge loss, as many of their products have been damaged inside the trucks.

"We have tried to resume export-import activities through the port, but found reservation of the Indian side, fearing spread of coronavirus," said Mohammad Belal Hossain Chowdhury, commissioner of the Benapole Customs House (BCH).

All negotiations with the relevant authorities of India have failed, he added.

On April 30, both the countries reached a consensus over resuming export-import by unloading trucks at zero point of Benapole-Petrapole.

However, the movement of trucks was suspended within two days, as around 500 local villagers of India with the support of ruling Trinamul Congress leaders put up blockade, protesting movement of trucks amid lockdown in India, imposed on March 23.

A rumour broke out in the villages near Petrapole that Benapole is severely affected by COVID-19.

The BCH commissioner said none of the officials and staffs of the customs house has so far been infected by COVID-19, although they have dealt with nearly 5,500 inbound and outbound passengers during the pandemic.

He said following the suspension of movement of trucks, they are now focusing on rail cargo movement to transport goods.

However, trucks are also required to import goods of some categories, he added.

On Wednesday, chairperson and board of administrators of the Bongaon Municipality urged Parmod Kr Yadav, manager of Integrated Check Post (ICP), CWC or Central Warehouse Corporation, Petrapole, to resume transshipment at zero point.

"It has been learnt that export-import operations through the border are not yet permitted by the government. However, the work may be started through transshipment process at zero point only," he wrote.

He requested to release some 200 trucks in CWC Petrapole parking lot at first.

Earlier, Mr Yadav requested the municipality to allow release of a large number of trucks from Kalitala parking, which is a parking lot of the municipality.

In the letter, the Bongaon municipality manager said they would take next action seriously to release a huge number of trucks from Kalitala parking after releasing the trucks from Petrapole CWC.

Through Benapole port, Bangladesh imports items like food grains, raw cotton, chassis, vehicles, motor parts, capital machinery, ready-made garments (RMG), iron and steel products, steel plates, cosmetics, baby foods, chemicals, stone and chips etc.

On the other hand, items like jute, jute goods, RMG, Hilsa fish, betel nut, tamarind seed and rice bran etc are mainly exported to India through the port.

doulot_akter@yahoo.com

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