Around 40 to 50 trucks carry edible oil and 20 carry cement to Agartala every day through the Akhaura land port
Before 2016, around 200 to 300 trucks carrying stone, cement, fish and plastic goods used to enter Agartala, India every day through the Akhaura land port in Brahmanbaria.
Four years ago, the number of trucks reduced to only 20-30 per day after a direct rail link was established between Agartala – the capital city of India's north-eastern state of Tripura – and other north-eastern states of the country.
However, edible oil and cement have kindled a ray of hope for Bangladeshi exporters, as exports of the aforementioned products through the land port have increased since November last year.
At present, over 100 goods trucks go to Agartala every day, of which 40 to 50 trucks carry edible oil and 20 carry cement.
Each truck of oil carries 10,500 litres of edible oil while each truck of cement carries 20,000 to 35,000 kilograms of cement, according to sources at the Akhaura Land Customs Station.
Rajib Bhuiyan, joint general secretary of Akhaura Land Port Import Export Association, said, "Our exports have increased since November 2019. Edible oil and cement are at the top of the list. Besides, the demand for stone and fish have also increased slightly."
Abbas Uddin Bhuiyan, managing director of Imam Brothers, said, "Our business is now a little better. The Indians are taking more edible oil and cement now."
Sources at Akhaura Land Customs Station said cement, rod and fish topped the list of goods exported through the port in the 2017-18 fiscal year. In FY19, the most exported items were rod, cement, fish, stone, coal and edible oil.
As the transportation system between Tripura and other states was not good, Akhaura land port was the only hope for importers of the region. But after the rail-link was established between Agartala and other states, the businessmen started importing goods from other parts of their own country.
Stone, one of the main items imported from Bangladesh, is now taken from Shillong, according to Bangladeshi businessmen.
The Indian importers stopped importing fish from Bangladesh citing various excuses as well, said Bangladeshi exporters.
However, small businessmen of India continued importing goods from Bangladesh, which kept Akhaura land port alive.
Though export of oil and cement has increased, the decline in export of other items is motivating businessmen to import cosmetics and motor parts from India, as there is a good demand for these items in the Bangladeshi market.
Besides, the businessmen think that as they mainly export goods to India through the land port, there is no balance in the trade. So, they want permission to import the items from the neighbouring country.
But, the permission for importing these items have not been given as of yet.
Abbas Uddin said, "As we do not import products from India through Akhaura land port, the trade remains one-sided here. We have permission to import products like fish fry, fruits, flower duster, incense sticks, seeds, coal and stones. But we want permission to import goods like cosmetics and motor parts, as there is a good demand for these items in the local market."
Faruq Miah, owner of Faruq and Brothers, said if they are given permission to import cosmetics and motor parts from India, businesses of both countries would benefit.