Collapse of local exports feared

August 24, 2014

Transit Of Indian Goods Thru Akhaura
Collapse of local exports feared
Local exporters fear transshipment of goods by India to its northeastern states using river and land ports in Bangladesh would have adverse impact on Bangladesh exports to Tripura through Akhaura. They said that businessmen would have nothing to export to Tripura if India was allowed to transship its essential goods, including food grains, via Bangladesh on a permanent basis and consequently the country would be deprived of huge foreign exchange.
Bangladesh was allowing India to transport rice and other commodities without duties under the river protocol between the two countries, but getting nothing in return, the businessmen said.
‘Around 50 businessmen and 35 C&F agents involved in exports and imports through Akhaura land port would lose their business if India is given the transit to ship food grains and other essentials to Agartala,’ said Md Monir Hossain, general secretary of the Clearing and Forwarding Agents’ Association at Akhaura.
He told New Age that Akhaura was largely an export-based land port as Bangladesh hardly imported anything from India through the route.
Bangladesh exports over 40 items, including plastic goods, cement, stone and fish through Akhaura, but hardly imports any Indian products through Agartala on the other side of the border, the businessmen said.
India is for the first time transporting rice from its south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh to its north-eastern state of Tripura, through Bangladesh on a ‘pilot initiative’, also affecting exports of local goods there as the Indian cargos were getting priority on the narrow passage to the border at Akhaura, according to officials and businessmen.
India reportedly plans to ship 35,000 tonnes of food grains annually, to its northeastern states, through Bangladesh, after successful completion of the ongoing trial transshipment that begun early August.
After successful transportation of 10,000 tonnes of rice, the Indian government is expected to ask Bangladesh to allow 35,000 tonnes of food grains to be transported to Tripura annually, New Delhi-based Financial Express reported in its online version on July 24.
‘The trucks carrying Bangladeshi exports have to wait in queues until the Indian convoy carrying rice gets the clearance to cross over the border to India,’ businessman Abbas Uddin said, expressing concern that their business would collapse if India was given the transit to ferry their goods through Bangladesh.
Akhaura land port customs officer Md Lutfur Rahman said that India had already transshipped around 4,000 tonnes of rice in 200 vehicles since August 7. He admitted that the regular transshipment of Indian goods would affect Bangladesh exports through the land port.
Md Tajul Islam, general secretary of the Exporters and Importers’ Association at Akhaura, said there was a huge demand for Bangladeshi products in the seven northeastern states of India. ‘If India can ferry goods via Bangladesh, we will lose our exports there,’ he added.
At present, the Indian authorities transport food grains for the what they call ‘targeted public distribution system’ using trucks that have to negotiate tough geographical terrain, vagaries of nature and frequent road blocks by insurgent groups, the media report said.
In the first consignment, five ships, loaded with 5,000 tonnes of rice reached the Ashuganj river port in Bangladesh from Kolkata on August 5 for delivery in Agartala.
Dhaka had decided to waive the duty on the transshipment of 10,000 tonnes of rice during the trial phase on ‘humanitarian ground’, said shipping ministry officials.
The officials, however, said travelling through Bangladesh would cut down on cost of transportation and distribution of grain to other Indian northeastern states as well.
A truck travels more than 1,650km to carry goods from Kolkata to Agartala through Guwahati — a distance that can be reduced to 350km when the Bangladesh route is used, according to the media reports.
In 2012, Bangladesh had allowed India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation to ferry heavy machinery, turbines and cargo through Ashuganj port for the 726MW Palatana mega power project in Tripura without charging any duties.

-Input from New Age

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