Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar through Teknaf land port in Cox’s Bazar is slowly returning to normal after almost grinding to a halt at the peak of the Rohingya refugee crisis in September.
The port employs a workforce of 650 and is the main gateway for trade with Myanmar.
Bangladesh exports 24 types of goods to Maungdaw, Sittwe and other port towns across the border. In reverse, Myanmar exports 30 types of goods to Bangladesh.
However, an official of United Group – a company supervising the port activities – said only 13 types of goods were imported from Myanmar in September and that no vessel had come from Maungdaw between late August and late September.
“The land port authorities counted about Tk 5.67 crore in September by handling imported consignments while the amount was almost double in the previous month,” he said.
In September, Teknaf land port earned Tk 37.92 lakh only, whereas the figure on average stands at Tk 85 lakh a month.
Teknaf Land Port Revenue Officer AM Shahidul Islam said revenue earnings had “dropped drastically” from late August up to the end of September.
“The frightened Rohingya taking shelter in Bangladesh fleeing the oppression in Rakhine state is to blame for the deterioration in the trade relations,” he said.
The port’s Security Superintendent Ansarul Hoque said traders had been frightened due to the tensed situation along the maritime border of the two countries. “Hence, they did not allow their goods-laden vessels to sail through the channel of the Naf,” he said.
However, by mid-October the pace of trade through the land port had almost returned to normal, pushing up the revenue earnings as well.
“Since early October, the land port kept regaining momentum amid vibrant export-import business,” said the United Group official.
During a recent visit to the land port, we found a healthy trading atmosphere with shipments of rice and fish seen being offloaded from vessels anchored near the port, and trucks queuing up to carry the items to other parts of Bangladesh.
However, the busy scene belied the testimonies of some of the workers hard done by during the recent dip in trade.
“I was forced to sit idle due to the stalemate in exports and imports at the port,” Babul Miah, one of the workers, said. “Now I am working hard to recoup the losses I incurred last month.”
Ehteshamul Haque Bahadur, general secretary of Teknaf Clearing and Forwarding Agents’ Association, said several hundred exporters and importers faced huge losses owing to the Rohingya issue, and that the situation only began to return to normal at the start of October.
“I hope that the port will witness full-fledged export-import trade, contributing to the national economy as in the past,” he said.
United Group’s Assistant General Manager Md Jashim Uddin Chowdhury said the port has a 2,000-ton daily handling capacity but handles 1,000 tons of goods per day on average, rising to 1,500 tons during peak periods.
“The handling of goods was on a downward trend for nearly five weeks (until September), he said.