Agri Business

1,000 tonnes of jute seeds meant for export to Bangladesh stuck at border

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on April 24, 2020

Small-time exporters, whose 50 loaded trucks are stranded at Petrapol, are worried as the sowing season in Bangladesh is coming to a close

Poor farmers in Bangladesh, in all likelihood, will be able to sow jute across 25 to 30 per cent less area this year, as the local administration in North 24 Parganas district, where a major land port is located, is in no mood to allow export of jute seeds to the neighbouring country.

As many as 50 trucks carrying nearly 1,000 tonnes of jute seeds have been lying stuck at Petrapol Land Port in Bangoan in North 24 Parganas district, despite the clear directive from the Central government permitting movement of seeds and other planting materials. Indian exporters whose consignments are stranded at the border since the announcement of the nation-wide lockdown on March 24 are worried because the jute sowing season in Bangladesh is drawing to a close.

“Bangladesh gets nearly 90 per cent of jute seeds from India. It has a little more than five lakh hectres under jute cultivation,” said Asesh Kumar Ghorai, senior scientist at ICAR-Central Research Institute for Jute and Allied Fibres, at Barrackpore, Kolkata.

Considering that a farmer uses six to seven kg of seeds per hectare, the seeds stuck at the border will be sufficient for sowing over 1.4 lakh hectares. That’s 25 to 30 per cent of the area under jute cultivation in the neighbouring country.

“India exports around 3,500 tonnes of jute seeds to Bangladesh. This year, nearly 65 trucks managed to carry jute seeds from another land port through Changrabad border in North Dinajpur district,” said Arun Agarwalla, Vice President of Seedmen Association of West Bengal.

“The trucks normally deliver the goods about a kilometre from our border at Petrapol and come back,” Agarwalla said.

“My four trucks carrying 62 tonnes of jute seeds are stuck at Petrapol. Local administration is not allowing the trucks to pass even though there are clear directives allowing export of seeds,” said Tonmoy Pandey, a Bongoan-based exporter.

Pandey and other exporters procure jute seeds from seed firms based in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra and bring them to Bongoan and neighbouring areas by rail and take them to Bangladesh by road.

According to the exporters, the district administration and district police authorities have said that since the truck drivers and their helpers do not have their own arrangement to quarantine themselves when they return, they cannot be allowed to cross the border. “Is it our job to provide drivers quarantine facilities?” asked the exporters.

According to sources, a total of 2,500 trucks are stuck at the border, most of them carrying non-agricultural products. “Even the truck drivers and helpers who managed to take jute seeds through Changrabada border are waiting at no man’s land. They are waiting till date to come back to India. Local authorities are not allowing empty trucks and their drivers to come back to India,” said Agarwalla.

Saifuddin Sardar, another exporter, whose three trucks are stuck at the border said the exporters are paying detention charges of ₹1,300 to ₹1,500 per truck per day. He said Bangladesh, which was also under lockdown till April 11, is willing to allow the jute seeds to come in, but the local authorities are not allowing them to go.

“The biggest worry is that the quality of these seeds will deteriorate due to high temperature as the loaded trucks are stuck at the border. The Bangladesh parties may not accept the seeds because of such inordinate delay in delivery. As a result, all Indian companies exporting seeds will face huge financial losses,” said Agarwalla.

Published on April 24, 2020

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