The country's largest land port at Benapole witnessed a 28.46% fall in imports in the first two months of the current fiscal year (FY23), compared to the same period in the previous fiscal.
Imports in July and August this year were 3,09,549 tonnes, down some 88,093 tonnes from 3,97,642 tonnes in the same months of FY22, according to the port authorities.
The government earned Tk757.21 crore in revenues from the two months of imports, against its target of Tk910 crore.
Traders said higher Letter of Credit margin expenses with falling foreign exchange reserves and irregularities committed by customs officials have made trading worse at Benapole.
"Businessmen of Bangladesh and India are more interested in trading through Benapole mainly for the ease of communication. But imports are now on the decline as the government has imposed up to 100% margin conditions on LCs," Benapole C&F Agents Association Joint Secretary Nasir Uddin told The Business Standard(TBS).
Echoing Nasir Uddin, former president of Jashore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mizanur Rahman Khan, said the higher LC margins have created an extreme liquid money crisis. "All in all, importers are in trouble," he told TBS.
Several importers, seeking anonymity, told TBS that many of them have already left Benapole only because of irregularities committed by customs and port officials there. They said they are forced to pay bribes to officials at every step. Otherwise, they are harassed in various ways.
"Moreover, customs officials do not do work on Friday and Saturday. They leave for Dhaka on Thursday and fly back to work on Sunday. Due to their absence, trade is hampered," said an importer.
Anti-Corruption Commission Deputy Director for Jashore, Md Al-Amin, said allegations of bribery at Benapole Customs is old.
On 26 August, a customs official was detained with Tk23 lakh on the way to Dhaka by US Bangla Airlines, he noted, adding that in the initial inquiry of the ACC, the official failed to reveal the source of money. "We are now taking legal action against him," Al-Amin said.
Benapole imports also declined in FY22 to 21.14 lakh tonnes from 26.44 lakh tonnes in FY21.