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Controversial Indian directive puts Benapole land port trade volume at risk

  • Published at 07:02 pm April 20th, 2019
Benapole land port
File photo: Trucks remain stranded at Benapole land port, just outside of India’s Petrapole checkpost, waiting to be cleared for export Dhaka Tribune

In a notice signed by the chief customs commissioner of Kolkata, it said every Indian export consignment will have to unload and undergo thorough examination and quality assessment at Petrapole, before it can go on to Benapole in Bangladesh

Traders in the district are anxiously predicting a sharp fall in trade volume at Benapole port and the Petrapole checkpost in India, thanks to a controversial order of the Indian customs authority.

In a notice signed by the chief customs commissioner of Kolkata, it said every Indian export consignment will have to unload and undergo thorough examination and quality assessment at Petrapole, before it can go on to Benapole in Bangladesh .

Only after successful completion of all formalities will the consignments be approved for export to Bangladesh through the Benapole land port.

Traders in the district warned this would drastically reduce the import-export volume in the region, which handles cargo of 500-600 Indian trucks, delivering as much 80% of raw materials for the RMG sector and other industries.

They said this new Indian customs directive would also hurt traders on the Indian side, and the export volume from Bangladesh would also be affected.

Benapole traders said the recent quality assessment circular has forced at least 5,000 goods-laden trucks to remain parked, at the Petrapole checkpost and Kalitala crossing.

The checkpost is managed by the Land Port Authority of India (LPAI), a statutory body set up by an Act in 2010, to provide better administration of border trade. 

The Petrapole checkpost is the busiest and largest land port in India in terms of handling cargo, spread over 100 acres.

Nearly 60% of India’s border trade with Bangladesh is through the Petrapole checkpost, which replaced the old Land Customs Station, which had a parking capacity of 700-800 vehicles. With the new ICP, this capacity has gone up to 2,000 trucks.

But now the recent directive has forced 5,000 trucks to remain stalled near the checkpost and Kalitala, all awaiting comprehensive quality assessments.

Bangladeshi traders lamented that before the directive, it usually took a consignment 10-15 days to complete formalities and enter Bangladesh, but this new regulation will increase that timeframe.

Not only will this increase difficulty in clearing goods, but it will also increase import costs for Bangladeshi traders.

They demanded the Ministry of Commerce look into the matter immediately and resolve the issue in their favour.

Although the Benapole port customs authority knew of no notice concerning any regulatory changes from India, they said if it was so, it would definitely bring down import-exports in the region.

Matiar Rahman, chairman of the land port subcommittee  under the Bangladesh-India Chamber of Commerce, refuted the Bangladesh customs authority assertion, saying every concerned stakeholder was aware of this recent regulatory development.

He warned that if the authorities do not take necessary action soon, it will have a severe impact on the regional economy.

Kartik Chandra, general secretary of Petrapole Checkpost Staff Association, acknowledged the impending difficulties, adding that perishable goods will be most affected as a result.

The annual trade volume of Benapole land port currently stands at Tk30,000 crore, with the government earning at least Tk10,000 crore in tax revenue.

The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has set revenue collection at Tk5,483 crore for the ongoing 2018-19 fiscal year.

The collection target for July-December was Tk2,649 crore, but Tk2,044 crore was collected, with a collection deficit of Tk604.16 crore.

Akram Hossain, assistant commissioner of Benapole Customs, said they did not receive a quality assessment regulation letter from their Indian counterparts so far.

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