The Bhomra land port in Satkhira witnessed a significant fall in the amount of goods imported in the first four months of the current fiscal year.
Businessmen using the port complain that some border point officials demand a bribe for unloading goods, otherwise the unloading is delayed, and that results in a loss.
The importers also said other land ports offer some duty exemption for imported goods, but Bhomra port does not. Besides, the port officials harass importers in many ways. So businessmen are becoming more interested in importing goods through Benapole and other ports.
Twenty-two types of goods are regularly imported through the Bhomra border point, most of which are fruits. Tax collection at the port has decreased because imports through the port have decreased. This will make it difficult for the port to meet the annual tax collection target set for it.
The amount of fruits imported through the land port in the first four months of the 2019-20 fiscal year was 30 percent less than that in the 2018-19 fiscal year.
According to the revenue section of Bhomra land port, in the first four months of this fiscal year, 32,133 tonnes of fruit were imported through the port. During the same period in the last fiscal year, 45,793 tonnes of fruit were imported through the port, which means there has been a drop of 13,659 tonnes.
During the first four months of the last fiscal year, the government collected Tk151.60 crore tax on fruits imported through Bhomra, while this year the amount was Tk107.37 crore during the same period. That means the revenue collection dropped by Tk44 crore.
ASM Maksud Khan, finance secretary of the Bhomra Clearing and Forwarding (C&F) Agents Association, said, ''Seventy-two products are permitted to be imported through the port, but 22 products are imported regularly. These are apples, pomegranates, grapes, chillis, tomatos, turmeric, ceramic products (raw material for tiles), dried fish, ginger, tamarind, dried plums (boroi), stones, garlic, pepper, cumin, onions (not being imported now), and rice.''
Oahidul Islam, a clearing and forwarding agent at the port, said, ''Previously, 70 to 80 fruit trucks entered Bangladesh through the port, but now only 20 to 22 trucks come.''
''Importers pay Tk47 as tax for each kilogram of pomegranates. Indian trucks carry around 22 tonnes of pomegranates, so the government earns Tk10 lakh to Tk11 lakh as duty per truck. The tax on each kilogram of oranges is Tk29, so importers pay Tk6 lakh to Tk7 lakh as tax for each truck of oranges. The tax on each kilogram of imported white grapes is Tk48 and for black grapes it is Tk51. So the government gets Tk11 lakh to Tk13 lakh as tax for each truck of white and black grapes.''
Commenting on importing fewer goods through Bhomra port, Oahidul Islam said, ''Most of the taxes collected at the Bhomra land port comes from imported fruit. We pay so much tax to the government to import goods from India, but when the trucks carrying goods arrive at Bhomra port, the officials start dillydallying in unloading them. The unloaded goods on the trucks start to rot, and the businessmen suffer a loss.''
''Moreover, Bikash Chandra Debnath, superintendent of customs at the port, gives special facilities to people who bribe him. Other businessmen are leaving the port for this reason,'' he added.
Tarikul Islam, a businessman at the port, said ''Customs Super Bikash Chandra Debnath controls some people at the port. He takes Tk9,000 as a bribe for each trucks of chillis. No truck can enter the country without paying this money. He takes the money through the people he controls. The businessmen are angry for this reason too.''
Rasheduzzaman Shohag, director of Rahima International, said, ''The customs office took a very long time to unload two trucks of apples that I imported in August. I suffered a loss of Tk3 lakh because the apples became rotten.''
Till November 24 in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, no one imported rice through Bhomra port. But, 6,933 tonnes of rice was imported till November 24 in the 2018-19 fiscal year, which yielded Tk5.38 crore as tax.
Mostafizur Rahman Nasim, general secretary of the Bhomra Land Port C&F Agent Association, said, ''Importers enjoy some facilities when they import fruits through other ports, but not at Bhomra port. The weight of boxes or cartoons are not counted at other ports and two tonnes of fruits are exempted from tax for each 10-tonne truck. But there is no such facility at Bhomra port, which costs the businessmen more. So, they are leaving the port.''
However, Superintendent of Customs Bikash Chandra Debnath brushed aside the complaints against him and said, ''I take no illegal favor from anybody. I also do not harass the businessmen. What can I do if businessmen complain? We can do nothing if a businessman leaves this port and goes to another one.''
He also said, ''The volume of import varies depending on the consumers' demand. Import might increase in the future, and along with that the tax collection might also increase.''