Approximately 80 percent of the total imported items from India come through Benapole
Benapole Customs House has failed to achieve its revenue collection target in the first ten months (July-April) of the current fiscal year.
The shortfall is nearly half of the target set for the period, and suspension of trade through the port because of the lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic has affected revenue collection.
The Customs House had set a target to collect revenue of Tk5,058 crore in the period, but managed to collect only Tk2,506 crore.
More than 17.78 lakh tonnes of goods were imported from India in the first ten months of the 2019-20 fiscal year.
The collection shortfall in the 2018-19 fiscal year was Tk1,145 crore against the collection target of Tk5,185 crore.
Earlier in 2017-18 fiscal year, the collection shortfall amounted to Tk179.64 crore against the target of Tk4,195 crore.
Businessmen said the collection was supposed to surpass the targeted Tk5,000 crore as most of the imported Indian goods enter Bangladesh through the port.
They believe the collection will soar if irregularities can be checked.
Customs officials said a decrease in the import of heavy-duty items and strict rules and regulations at the port have played significant roles in the falling of revenue collection.
Bangladesh has 23 land ports with neighbouring India. Of those, only 13 ports are currently in operation while Benapole is one of the largest among the operational ports.
The Benapole land port has good connectivity and is just 84 kilometres from Kolkata. Around 80 percent of the total imported Indian items enter Bangladesh through the port.
Mofizur Rahman Sujon, president of the Benapole C&F Agents Association, demanded unified revenue charges at all ports. He claimed that the agents in many cases pay $4.5 import duty for a product while Chattogram port charges $4 for the same item.
"The capacity of the port is 38,000 tonnes, but a minimum of 1.5 lakh tonnes of goods remain in the port yard all the time. While Indian trucks have to line up to offload goods due to space scarcity, the piled-up products in the yard are getting destroyed under the open sky," said the C&F Agents Association president.
"If importers get more facilities, then revenue collection from the port will automatically go up. And importers alone can never evade duty if some customs officials are not involved," Sujon added.
Abdul Jalil, deputy-director of Benapole Port, agreed that space scarcity is hampering trade through the port. "We are acquiring and developing land for the port to resolve the issue. Once the acquisition is completed, the port will be more vibrant," he added.
Mizanur Rahman Khan, former president of the Jashore Chamber of Commerce, said they do not get facilities at the land port as they expect.
He said there is no alternative to enhancing facilities for importers and improving the existing trade infrastructure. Benapole port should be made hassle-free.
Dr Syed Neyamul Islam, additional commissioner of Benapole Customs House, said that the import of heavy-duty products, specially vehicle chassis, have decreased through the port.
"Moreover, trade through the port has been suspended for the last two months over the virus outbreak. Therefore, revenue collection did not reach the target. I hope things will get better as the pandemic situation returns to normal," he concluded.