Crisis in export through an Indo-Bangladesh cross-border trade gate has reached an unprecedented height to prompt the traders to knock the door of top officials at diplomatic level. It is Mahadipur Land Customs Station in West Bengal that has Sonamasjid Land Port of Bangladesh in the other side of border, that has become a concern for the Indian cross border traders.
“Lack of infrastructure in Bangladesh side of the port has become a nightmare,” said Mr. Ujjal Saha, Secretary, West Bengal Exporters Coordination Committee, a body affiliated to Federation of Indian Export Organization.
As per the system, Indian vehicles carrying exportable items need to get cleared off for a transshipment of goods to Bangladesh vehicles at border. As different kind of items ranging from perishable fruits to solid boulders get exported, different kind of transshipment facility is needed. Adequacy of that is also another vital factor to ensure transshipment of all vehicles within reasonable time.
But, “Hardly 250 to 300 trucks can have transshipment a day forcing the others to remain stranded for long, even for days. In this way, over 1500 Indian trucks remain in waiting to get cleared at any given moment,” said Mr. Saha.
The trouble bits exporters from different angles. First, it compels the exporters to pay additional compensatory payment of Rs 50 per ton per day to transporters that increases transportation cost. Next, this stranded fleet of loaded trucks for miles on road under open sky has given birth of an underworld workflow. But most importantly, perishable items like fruits cannot withstand this waiting and cause high loss to the traders.
Sonamasjid is the second largest external trade gate for Bangladesh. Being initiated in 1991 as Land Customs Station, this was elevated to Land Port status in 2006 to remain under handling of Panama Port Link Limited, a private entity for a span of 25 years. “But they are reluctant to develop infrastructure,” complained many exporters.
“We have requested Indian High Commission office to take it up with Bangladesh Government. In parallel, FIEO is also expected to talk on this to Indian Trade and Commerce as well as External Affairs Ministry,” said Mr. Saha.
India is the largest trade partner of Bangladesh with huge trade balance in own favour. During 12-13 FY, Indian export volume was Rs 28k crore with 52% growth over previous year against import of only Rs 3.5k crore and its 24% growth. Naturally, “Ironing up of these issues in trade gates can further brighten up this picture significantly,” said Mr. Saha.