The importers of the perishable goods fear damages if the situation is not fixed soon
Indian truck drivers at the Hili Land Port have halted export-import operations, demanding the immediate release of imported rice.
Around 10am Wednesday, the truck drivers took up positions at the main road of the port. This resulted in a complete halt in trading and a couple of hundred trucks carrying perishable goods got stuck on the Indian side.
A meeting held on Wednesday afternoon with Bangladeshi exporters, importers, clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents, and the Indian truck drivers, ended without a solution.
The importers of the perishable goods fear damages if the situation is not fixed soon.
The truck drivers and their helpers in speaking to the press said it has been more than a month that they entered the port but no steps have been taken by the authorities yet to release their loaded rice trucks.
The truck drivers have already run out of money for food and they are not allowed to go back to India as well.
As a result, trading in the port was stopped by the rice laden truck drivers on Monday from 1pm to 4pm.
Later, on Tuesday about 11am, the Indian truck drivers called off their protest after they were assured by the traders and C&F agents of the port, that the rice will soon be released.
But there was no action by the authorities till Tuesday afternoon. As a result, the agitating truck drivers again took up positions on the streets and halted the trading at Hili Land Port.
The drivers said, until their demands are met, they will not allow any goods laden vehicle from either side to pass through the border.
Rice importers Mamunur Rashid Lebu and Harunur Rashid Harun said, according to Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed’s statement on June 4, the tax on imported rice will be increased to 28% so that local farmers are not affected financially.
As a result, rice importers with issued letters of credit (LCs) started to stock huge quantities of rice on June 5 and 6 at the port aiming to have the earlier tax rate of 2% applied to their rice imports.
But after completing all the formalities of import taxes, when the importers went to submit the bill of lading, they were informed that the customs server was out of order and the goods could not be released on June 6 and 7.
Only 4,000 tons of rice were released on budget day till 3pm as the bill of lading for those goods were already submitted.
Around 8000 tons of rice stuck in the port were imported before the budget proposal.
The traders said they filed a writ petition with the high court for upholding the earlier 2% tax rate on imported rice. The court has given 10 days for the NBR and Customs to clarify the upward revised tax rate following which the traders will take necessary steps upon the court’s verdict. They said there is no space in the port to store the rice as well.
The importers are ready for now to take the rice at the increased 28% tax rate. Earlier, they had applied to NBR and other customs authorities to reinstate the previous 2% tax rate.
The traders also said the Indian truck drivers stuck at the port are in a crisis for money and food and that is why they are protesting, which is also a humanitarian matter and this needs to be fixed soon.
Human Resource Official of Hili Land Port, Sohrab Hossain said: “209 truck drivers, carrying 8, 000 tons of rice from India are stuck in the port for the last one month due to tax related issues.
"Goods did not cross the land port on Tuesday and Wednesday due to the ongoing protests of the Indian truck drivers. Talks are in progress with them, to come to a solution,” he said.