Hartal chokes RMG exporters
"> More than 200 trucks loaded with import-export goods are stranded at Burimari Land Port in Patgram, Lalmonirhat yesterday due to the ongoing countrywide hartal. Photo: StarInternational trade has almost come to a standstill due to the 60-hour shutdown enforced by opposition parties, leaving thousands of goods-laden trucks stranded on the land ports and the premier sea port.
“The three-day strike couldn't come at a worse time. With Christmas approaching in the Western world, now is the peak time for shipment of garment products,” Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said.
If the garment makers fail to maintain the lead time in this important period, the international retailers will lose confidence in Bangladesh and shift orders to other countries, he added.
“Plus, the halt in transportation of goods has already started affecting the prices of basic commodities in the city,” said the chief of the country's apex trade body.
The FBCCI will hold a board meeting today to get an accurate sense of the present economic situation borne out of the political crisis, he said.
“We need smooth transportation of goods in this time. Buyers are calling us to know whether we can maintain the lead time or not,” Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the garment makers' platform, said.
“The buyers are insisting that we ship the items at any cost so that they can be stocked in time for Christmas,” he said, adding that the garment makers would have to resort to expensive air shipment if the situation lingers.
The bad impact of the shutdown was particularly noticed in the Chittagong port. On a normal day, between 1,628 to 2,000 TEUs (twenty-feet equivalent units) are delivered, but in the 24 hours since the shutdown started, it slumped to only 212 TEUs, according to data from the traffic department of Chittagong Port Authority.
No goods were unloaded at Benapole, the country's biggest land port, due to hartal over the last two days. Subsequently, the port authorities stand to lose around Tk 10.43 crore in revenue per day, according to port officials.
A four-kilometre line has been created on the Indian Petrapole, the counterpart of Benapole, as imports have been halted due to hartal at the port.
A similar situation was also noticed in other land ports of the country.
“We usually forward the imported goods to the rest of the country within a day of their arrival, but now we are having to deposit them at our warehouses,” said Harun Ur Rashid, convener of Hili Land Importer and Exporter Association.
Some 120 goods-laden trucks from India and Bhutan and 89 Bangladeshi trucks loaded of different export items were stranded on the road, a custom official at Burimari Land Port said.
Shamim Ahmed, a heavy user of the Burimari Land Port, said he has been facing heavy losses due to the hartal. “We do not dare to conduct trade due to fear of hartal pickets,” he said.
Hundreds of loaded trucks, too, were stranded on both sides of the Sonamasjid land port since Sunday morning due to hartal.
Jagannath Kumar Saha, manager (operation) of Sonamasjid-Panama Port Link, a private port operator, said over 500 imported goods-laden trucks, including onion and fruits, got stranded on Mohodipur land port of Malda in West Bengal, the opposite of Sonamasjid land port.