A huge amount of low quality imported Indian wheat seized by Banglabandha Land Port authorities in Panchagarh on January 17 is still lying in the warehouse as the port authority and the importer from Nilphamari blame each other for failure to return the goods to the Indian exporter, ignoring a directive of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Dhaka.
The rotten wheat, which was detained over one-and-a-half-months ago, is causing pollution and threatening spread of virus and bacteria.
Importer Md Imtiaz, proprietor of Messrs Imtiaz Traders in Saidpur Municipality of Nilphamari, said he opened a Letter of Credit on January 4 in 2018, amounting to $54,000, from Saidpur branch of Islami Bank Ltd to import 200 tonnes of wheat from India.
Accordingly, Indian exporter Mohon Kumar Agarwal of Uttar Dinajpur in Paschimbanga of India sent 190.10 tonnes of wheat through Banglabandha Land Port on January 17.
“As the imported wheat went through quarantine test, it was found that it was rotten and contained harmful viruses and bacteria,” said land port's Revenue Officer Zakir Hossain.
The port authority detained the consignment and sent a sample to DAE for further test by its quarantine wing. DAE said the wheat was rotten and carried five kinds of bacteria and viruses, and directed the port authority to return the consignment soon, Zakir added.
“I sent two letters to Assistant Commissioner (AC) of Customs at Banglabandha Land Port Abdus Sattar on February 14 and February 19 and also to Commissioner of Customs, Excise and VAT in Rangpur Ahsanul Huq on February 22, requesting them to release the wheat so that I could return it,” Imtiaz said.
“I received a letter from the land port authority on February 28, asking me to submit no objection papers from National Board of Revenue (NBR), Bangladesh Bank (BB) and Export-Import Bureau for returning the wheat,” he added.
“I appealed to the three offices concerned to give me the papers. As it is a lengthy process, I was worried that the entire consignment might rot and the exporter would be unlikely to accept the wheat, compelling me to pay demurrage as a long time has already passed,” Imtiaz said.
The land port authority directed the importer to pay warehouse charge at a rate of Tk 5,200 per day from the day the consignment was detained.
The AC Customs rejected the allegation of negligence to release the wheat and said they were taking every step as per law.
“As soon as the importer submits the papers from NBR, BB and Export-Import Bureau, we will hand over the wheat to him for returning it,” he added.