Goods in limbo as rising transport costs bite Benapole traders

FE ONLINE DESK | Thursday, 11 August 2022

As fuel prices have shot up, truck and covered van owners are demanding higher rates, causing serious difficulties for traders at the Benapole land port.

In addition to rising costs, there is also a shortage of vehicles, reports bdnews24.com.

As a result, traders, transport agents and C&F agents are struggling to send imports from India to their destinations across the country.

They say that before the fuel price hike, it took Tk 18,000–23,000 to rent a truck from Benapole to Dhaka. But now, transporters are demanding Tk 28,000-32,000 for the trip.

The increased fares and the vehicle shortage have meant that many traders who have paid their customs dues have been unable to move their goods from the land port.

“When the price of oil goes up, truck fares will rise too,” says Azim Uddin Gazi, general secretary of the Benapole Transport Agency Owners Association.

“The cost of transporting goods from Benapole to the rest of the country has gone up. The price hike took effect on Saturday.”

He confirmed the truck rental prices from Benapole to Dhaka and said the covered van fare for the trip was now Tk 25,000-35,000.

The government increased the prices of diesel and kerosene by 42.5 percent to Tk 114 per litre on Aug 6. In Bangladesh, most freight vehicles run on diesel.

Petrol prices were fixed at Tk 130 a litre, a 51.16 percent jump, while octane prices rose 51.68 percent to Tk 135. Diesel and kerosene prices were increased previously by 23 percent to Tk 80 per litre in November last year.

Faizur Rahman, the owner of ‘Rose Trading’ in Dhaka’s Keraniganj, says his imports are stuck at Benapole because of the hike in the truck fare.

A shipment of printing ink from India was at Benapole port, he said. The customs and port formalities were complete, but he has been unable to bring the shipment to his factory because truckers are demanding more than the Tk 8,000-10,000 he is willing to pay.

Nazrul Islam, the owner of importer ‘Maisha Trading’ in Dhaka’s Mogbazar, said: “If we have to pay such steep prices for trucks, not only will we make no profit from bringing chemicals to factories, we will actually lose money.”

Ezaz Uddin Tipu is the managing director of Jashore importer ‘Ripon Auto’. He said that, before the price of fuel shot up, he had hired trucks for trips from Benapole to Jashore for as little as Tk 7,000. Now the same truckers are asking for Tk 12,000.

“You can’t raise prices in a competitive market. We will have to take losses to hire trucks.”

About 300-400 trucks from India arrive at Benapole to drop off goods every day, says Mamun Kabir Tarufder, deputy director of Benapole port. About 200 to 250 trucks take exports to India.

About 450-500 trucks set off from Benapole to distribute goods across the country, he said.

In the 2021-22 fiscal year, Bangladesh imported 2.11 million metric tons of goods to Bangladesh. They are mostly transported by trucks and covered vans.

Motiar Rahman, director of the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:

“Truck fares have gone up as the price of diesel rose. The government has to monitor the situation so that freight spending does not skyrocket. Otherwise, it will put a lot of pressure on consumers.”